THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (AGAINST ALL-CLAD KNOCKOFFS)
We buy lots of cookware, to the point where we had to figure out new ways to store it. This How To article will show you the things we considered and tried. Ultimately we went with wire shelves with pan organizers sitting on those shelves, in addition to giving away excess pans to family and friends (including readers of this site–for more information, subscribe to our monthly updates via social media or email). But there are other methods that work, too, if you have fewer pieces of cookware to store.
Chrome Plating is very shiny and hard and is often applied along with a base layer of nickel to bare steel. If you bang into chrome plating with something hard enough times, the chrome plating can wear through and expose the underlying steel, which can rust. As long as you’re not too careless, though, this finish can last for a very long time and is a favorite material for commercial establishments ranging from kitchens to warehouses to retail stores.
Unfortunately chromium has gotten a bad rap from association with its pollutant. In the film Erin Brockovich, actress Julia Roberts starred as a do-gooder who helped sue a gas and electric utility company for polluting groundwater near a small California town with hexavalent chromium.
So is chromium toxic? Is chromium plating toxic? Is stainless steel toxic, since it is comprised of 18% chromium?
What is Microban?
Microban is a company (Microban International) as well as a product brand name (Microban®) for an antibacterial system that may contain triclosan, a general-purpose antibacterial, and other substances applied to solid plastics and fibers. That system dates back to 1969 and was first used in industrial and medical industries, with introduction to consumer products starting in 1994.
Scanpan (“Scan” for “Scandanavian” since they are made in Denmark; “pan” meaning cooking pan) is a Danish company founded in 1956.1
Scanpan is perhaps better known for its nonstick Scanpan CTX line of cookware–which Scanpan tries its best to portray as something other than a PTFE/Teflon pan even though it is in fact a PTFE/Teflon pan. That’s why they can only advertise it as PFOA-free instead of both PFOA- and PTFE-free. (Those acronyms are confusing; if you need to refresh your memory on the difference, click here.) Scanpan is not the only European cookware maker that tries to cover up its use of PTFE; Woll and Swiss Diamond do the same.
But Scanpan also makes a Scanpan CSX product line that is constructed similarly to All-Clad Stainless, with three visible layers: an interior 18/10 stainless steel cooking surface layer, a middle layer of aluminum alloy, and an exterior 18/0 magnetic stainless steel exterior that makes the pan compatible with induction stoves. (The overly-enthusiastic Scanpan marketers count the microscopically thin bonding layers of aluminum as separate layers, but in actuality it has just as few layers as All-Clad Stainless.)
As the New York Times puts it, “Experts now say that no amount of lead in the blood is safe, and that even low levels of exposure can harm cognitive function and have other adverse effects.”1
The effects of lead are irreversible. Lead bioaccumulates–meaning it does not get flushed out with urine or feces. Instead, lead embeds itself in your bones, brain, kidneys, and other organs and causes lots of problems: muscle pain, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, headaches, insomnia, anemia, behavior disorders, visual impairment, numbness, abdominal pain, depression, and.. well you get the idea. Even tiny amounts of lead decrease IQ and increase behavioral problems in kids, and adults aren’t immune either.2 For example, an increase in blood lead from 10 to 20 micrograms/dl = a decrease of 2.6 IQ points in school-aged children regardless of whether they were in poor, middle, or upper-class households.3 A decrease of IQ points means worse performance at school/work and lower lifetime earnings, among other things.
Even though scientists have known that there is no “safe” level of lead exposure since the 1920s, the government has been slow to act. For example, federal law (the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1974, as amended throughout the years) defined “lead free” drinking water pipes to mean “up to 8% lead” from 1974 to 2011. After 2011, “lead free” meant “up to 0.25% lead.”4 (On what planet should “lead free” mean “up to 8% lead”? Would you drink “urine free” water that was 8% urine?) For pre-1974 homes, lead limits varied; some local governments were still allowing 100% lead pipes. On a related note, lead paint for residential construction was not banned until 1978, and gasoline-makers were legally adding lead to gas until 1986.5
Flint is famous for failing to keep lead out of its drinking water, but in December 2016, Reuters found nearly 3,000 areas with recently recorded lead poisoning rates at least double those in Flint during the peak of that city’s contamination crisis. And more than 1,100 of these communities had a rate of elevated blood tests at least four times higher.6 More than 5,000 water systems across the country are violating rules meant to keep lead out of drinking water.7 U.S. water infrastructure has been decaying all over the country for decades: in Sebring, Ohio, the city waited five months to warn pregnant women and children to stop drinking their lead-contaminated water, and Washington D.C. waited three years to warn its residents after lead spiked to as much as 20 times the federally-approved limit.8
Worse, lead is only one of many different toxic substances that can make it into drinking water supplies. The same New York Times article referenced above also talks about how tap water testing can be spotty in terms of geography and in time: in Brick Township, New Jersey, almost no homes exceeded the EPA limit for lead in 2011. Three years later, nearly half of the tested 34 homes exceeded the limit. Affected homeowners drank contaminated water for three years thinking they were safe.
And then there’s this:
- http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/us/lead-poisoning.html ↩
- http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/30/us/lead-poisoning.html See also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lead_poisoning#Signs_and_symptoms ↩
Low-level lead exposure and children’s IQ: a meta-analysis and search for a threshold.
To assess the strength of the association between blood lead and children’s IQ, a meta-analysis of the studies examining the relationship in school age children was performed. Emphasis was given to the size of the effect, since that allows comparisons that are informative about potential confounding and effect modifiers. Sensitivity analyses were also performed. A highly significant association was found between lead exposure and children’s IQ (P < 0.001). An increase in blood lead from 10 to 20 micrograms/dl was associated with a decrease of 2.6 IQ points in the meta-analysis. This result was robust to inclusion or exclusion of the strongest individual studies and to relaxing the age requirements (school age children) of the meta-analysis. Adding eight studies with effect estimates of 0 would still leave a significant association with blood lead (P < 0.01). There was no evidence that the effect was limited to disadvantaged children and there was a suggestion of the opposite. The studies with mean blood lead levels of 15 micrograms/dl or lower in their sample had higher estimated blood lead slopes, suggesting that a threshold at 10 micrograms/dl is implausible. The study with the lowest mean blood lead level was examined using nonparametric smoothing. It showed no evidence of a threshold down to blood lead concentrations of 1 microgram/dl. Lead interferes with GABAergic and dopaminergic neurotransmission. It has been shown to bind to the NMDA receptor and inhibit long-term potentiation in the hippocampal region of the brain. Moreover, experimental studies have demonstrated that blood levels of 10 micrograms/dl interfere with a broad range of cognitive function in primates. Given this support, these associations in humans should be considered causal. ↩
- See, e.g., https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2509614/, https://www.epa.gov/dwstandardsregulations/use-lead-free-pipes-fittings-fixtures-solder-and-flux-drinking-water, https://www.congress.gov/111/plaws/publ380/PLAW-111publ380.pdf, and https://apps.npr.org/find-lead-pipes-in-your-home/en/#intro. ↩
- See, e.g., https://www.epa.gov/lead/protect-your-family-exposures-lead and https://www.thenation.com/article/secret-history-lead/ ↩
- http://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/usa-lead-testing/ ↩
- https://www.nrdc.org/resources/whats-your-water-flint-and-beyond and http://www.nbcnews.com/storyline/flint-water-crisis/water-systems-violate-lead-rules-nationwide-advocacy-group-finds-n600456 ↩
- http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/09/us/regulatory-gaps-leave-unsafe-lead-levels-in-water-nationwide.html ↩