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QUESTION: Can you test aluminium cooking pots to determine their lead content? 30/08/09 Western Australia, Australia

Mum has a set of old-ish pots she loves. I saw some that still has imprints of them that says made in Australia, 99% aluminium.. Can't remember the exact style/brand (something like Modern Style by Jason) but they seem old and a bit too heavy for my liking. Is there anyway i could find out to ensure there are no lead composites in the materials used in the pot?


EMAIL TWO Sent: Friday, September 04, 2009 1:21 PM

Thanks you very much for your answers and recommendations.

Just to gain more knowledge on cooking pots.. you mentioned aluminium pots are not recommended for cooking either, what is/are the reasons they are not recommended?

Thanks very much. Will look into the blood test with our doctor.


EMAIL THREE Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 6:43 PM

Thanks Elizabeth.

Ya, I did some google searching on the weekend. Thanks heaps for your advice.

ANSWER: Sep 4 2009

Dear Madam,

I wrote the info below in answer your question and then realized that the best test of all is to ask the doctor to do a blood lead test on your mum and anyone else who has eaten the food cooked by the suspect pots. If all the blood lead results are below 2 micrograms per decilitre (approximately equivalent to 0.1 micromoles per litre - which is how your results will probably come), then you'll know the pots have an acceptably small lead content.

Please read our factsheet on the subject Dangers of a blood lead level above 2 and below 10 μg/dL to both adults and children You can ask the doctor to write "Bulkbill" on the blood lead test requests so they don't cost anything. The same blood samples can be used for iron studies if anyone's anaemia-status is unknown.

The only cooking pot test that immediately springs to mind is laboratory analysis for lead but that is quite an expensive test. For instance, the Australian Government Analytical Laboratories (AGAL), Laboratory in Sydney is NATA accredited to test lead in paint, leachable lead in crockery and analysis of miscellaneous items for heavy metal content. The last time I checked, 8 years ago, their minimum invoice was $110. You'd be better off to consider replacing the pots for your mum since aluminium pots are not recommended anyway. The safest cooking pots are made of glass and if you want to add iron to your meals, for instance if anyone in the family has iron-deficiency anaemia or is borderline anaemic, then a non-glazed cast iron frypan is a great addition to a set of cooking pots. If neither of those options appeal then good quality stainless steel pots are the next best thing.

I guess a clever scientist-type in the family might be able to set up an experiment to measure the weight and then the volume of a pot (by the amount of water it displaces in a large container) and then to compare the density to a chart of pure metal and metal alloy densities - but that may be beyond the accuracy of home science, I'm not sure. At least it wouldn't cost anything.

I hope this helps.


Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien,

EMAIL TWO Sent: Monday, September 07, 2009 6:33 PM

Dear Madam,

thanks for your second email. I'm glad to hear you're looking into organising blood lead testing.

One article that is often quoted in regard to not recommending the long-term use of aluminium cooking pots is "Cumming RG and Klineberg RJ, "Aluminum in Antacids and Cooking Pots and the Risk of Hip Fractures in Elderly People,"Age Ageing, 1994, 23:468-72" (1994) at

I'm sure you'll find heaps of others in a Google search.



EMAIL THREE Sent: Wednesday, September 09, 2009 1:20 PM

There's an interesting article - you might not have found because it doesn't mention cooking pots - called "Aluminium and lead: molecular mechanisms of brain toxicity" (attached and) at

The whole question of whether aluminium and/or lead and other heavy metals and/or saturated fats and/or low education level contributes to the incidence of Alzheimer's disease is an interesting one and one of our researchers is currently writing a factsheet on Lead Exposure & Alzheimer’s Disease: Is There A Link?.

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