Yes, folks, it’s true. Most (perhaps all) slow cookers contain lead in their glazing, which leaches out easily at higher, sustained temperatures (like slow cooking). I have hesitated posting this for months because I haven’t wanted to believe it’s true, and I want to test my own crock pot for myself. I haven’t gotten around to the leachability testing, which I now have the capability to do, but I didn’t want to wait any longer to warn you. I will be conducting a fairly limited leach test on my crock pot(s), and I will follow up with results.
It’s tricky to contact manufacturers to determine whether or not your slow cooker contains lead, for several reasons. First, the level of accuracy of the information you receive depends largely on who you end up speaking with. Second, manufacturers can claim that their slow cookers are “lead free” if they meed federal requirements; this does not mean they are really lead free. Third, there are some customer service reps who get confused about lead in the clay v. lead in the glazing. (Heck, I’m still confused on that one.)
Links of interested related to lead in slow cookers:
- KUTV News in Salt Lake City: Gephardt Finds Dangerous Lead In More Kitchen Items
- Lead Plate Testing Results (.pdf) – KUTV tests more than 1500 plates
- Slow Cooker with Lead Free Glaze at Green Living with Debra Lynn Dadd
- Thread at MDC: Lead-free slow cooker?
- Thread at MDC: Crock Pots and Lead
Some slow cooker alternatives:
- Good ol’ cast iron dutch oven (mine is cheap and not enameled; Le Creuset enamed ones are lead free)
- Stainless steel thermal cookers like this one and this one (I’m actually excited to save up some cash and try one one of these someday)
- Here’s a tempered glass slow cooker, if you don’t need a big one
Most PVC-covered wire contains lead to keep it supple. This includes appliance cords, electronics cords, and regular wiring used in your home’s walls. This is widely known among electricians, yet your everyday consumer doesn’t tend to think about this fact (even though many appliance cords come with warnings).
This is, frustratingly, a largely unavoidable problem. I’ve heard you can search out lead-free wire for your home’s wiring, but you’ll need to do a lot of research and manufacturer-calling to find it. As for appliances and computers: always wash your hands after handling cords and before preparing food. Wipe down counters with a wet cleaner/soap frequently. Try to keep your little ones from playing with lamp cords and the like. Wet mop and/or vacuum regularly with a vacuum containing a HEPA filter to keep toxic dust levels down (including lead, allergens, and flame retardants like PBDEs).