Metal exposures from aluminum cookware: An unrecognized public health risk in developing countries
Abstract, Science of The Total Environment, 2017 February
Removing lead from gasoline has resulted in decreases in blood lead levels in most of the world, but blood lead levels remain elevated in low and middle-income countries compared to more developed countries. Several reasons for this difference have been investigated, but few studies have examined the potential contribution from locally-made aluminum cookware. In a previous study of cookware from a single African country, Cameroon, artisanal aluminum cookware that is made from scrap metal released significant quantities of lead. In this study, 42 intact aluminum cookware items from ten developing countries were tested for their potential to release lead and other metals during cooking. Fifteen items released ≥ 1 microgram of lead per serving (250 mL) when tested by boiling with dilute acetic acid for 2 h. One pot, from Viet Nam, released 33, 1126 and 1426 micrograms per serving in successive tests. Ten samples released > 1 microgram of cadmium per serving, and fifteen items released > 1 microgram of arsenic per serving. The mean exposure estimate for aluminum was 125 mg per serving, more than six times the World Health Organization's Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake of 20 mg/day for a 70 kg adult, and 40 of 42 items tested exceeded this level. We conducted preliminary assessments of three potential methods to reduce metal leaching from this cookware. Coating the cookware reduced aluminum exposure per serving by > 98%, and similar reductions were seen for other metals as well. Potential exposure to metals by corrosion during cooking may pose a significant and largely unrecognized public health risk which deserves urgent attention.