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topic 22551 p.2

Is There a Danger in Cast Aluminum Cookware?

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A discussion started in 2003 but continuing through 2019


Q. I Have read all the comments about aluminum cookware. I am not questioning their safety in any other respect than why is it that we have washed these skillets with soap and water and keep getting black all over our towels. We just bought these today at a restaurant supply house to use at our church. We are concerned about what we should do. Can you help?


Sara Darden
- Corinth, Texas

A. Hi, Sara. The "black" that you and Trey speak of is probably aluminum oxide dust. If the cookware is not anodized, or the anodizing has worn off or been dissolved off in a dishwasher, the aluminum on the surface will combine with oxygen and form aluminum oxide. Very fine dusts appear black because they are so tiny that they reflect no light. Ideally this aluminum oxide dust would be well attached to the pot, but sometimes it is only loosely adherent and can be rubbed off. It is certainly unaesthetic regardless of your position on the safety issues discussed here.

I think putting aluminum pots in the dishwasher with alkaline detergents is the main cause. I think it will go away if you only use mild detergents like the dishwashing liquids made for hand use. Try washing one pot with a mild acid like lemon juice or diluted vinegar, which has seemed to work for me, or scrubbing it with cream of tartar as described in letter 34157, "Need help cleaning/polishing aluminum cookware", and let us know what you find.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 3, 2009

!! I remain skeptical.

As pointed out, the media is big business. They used this observation to debunk sensationalist arguments, but it works both ways: Aluminum is big business and we have every reason in the world to believe that in this day and age of PR and spin, industries such as tobacco, aluminum, etc., are going to do all they can to muddy the waters. Unfortunately, gone are the days you can simply turn on the TV and believe what you hear and see.

It has been said that aluminum occurs naturally and makes up about 8% of the surface of the earth. As someone else points out, lead occurs naturally too, but that doesn't mean I want lead-based paint in my child's room. The govt source cited above goes on to say that in nature aluminum "is always found combined with other elements such as oxygen, silicon, and fluorine". That's why you don't dig in the dirt and come across aluminum rocks. Pure aluminum (like in your frying pan) is the result of manufacturing. Oxygen, silicon, and fluorine may well render it inert.

Again, it was said that aluminum is "in the water"; it's "in the air". That's a specious argument. It depends on what water and air you are talking about. Mustard gas occurred in "the" water and "the" air in WWI, too, but that didn't mean everyone everywhere had to put on a gas mask. You only did if you were near the source. The govt article cited above states that "drinking water with high levels of aluminum near waste sites, manufacturing plants, or areas naturally high in aluminum" is one of the major ways to be exposed to aluminum (how many antacids and buffered aspirin do you take?). The question is whether cooking with aluminum (which, when heated, has different properties than aluminum+oxygen+silicon+fluorine in dirt) is bad for you or not.

All I know is Alzheimer's patients' brains are full of aluminum. And I don't trust a bunch of possibly industry-sponsored websites to tell me the truth.

Charles Mills
- Monterey, California

Hi, Charles. You say it was a 'specious' argument to claim that aluminum must be safe because it is everywhere . . . but no one advanced such an argument. No one said "it's in the water, it's in the air" either. Rather, I told Trey, who claimed that "western society is in the business of getting us sick and keeping us there", that avoiding "the trappings of western society" will not further the goal of reducing or eliminating her exposure to an earth where it is the 3rd most common element.

But yes, aluminum cookware has been used around the world by hundreds of millions of people across multiple generations for their entire lives, and the Alzheimer's Association says: "... most mainstream health professionals believe, based on current knowledge, that exposure to aluminum is not a significant risk factor. Public health bodies sharing this conviction include the World Health Organization (WHO), the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Health Canada". None of these sources feel that "Alzheimer's patients' brains are full of aluminum". And quit with the ad hominems please; they knock the discussion off the rails while making the thread a less pleasant place to visit -- save them for the ever so intelligent political discussions on Facebook.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 28, 2009

Q. Is sanding cast aluminum cookware a Health Hazard? My name is Willie May Freeman, and I live in Alvin, Texas.
I recently purchased some older because those are what my mother had cooked with when I was a child and I remember her food was delicious! I know that there is no proof that aluminum cooking pans and Alzheimer's are linked in any way, but my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's at 62 years of age and passed away 16 years later from it. By the same token, my dad ate what my mom ate that was cooked in the same pots, and he lived to be 94. So, I was not afraid of the aluminum pots being the culprit for my mother's Alzheimer's. I really like the heavy pots and have acquired several. Some of the items I obtained are in beautiful condition, and when I asked how this could be at their age, I was told that they were sanded with sandpaper. That concerns me a little because I am wondering if the pots have been sanded down to a different kind of material. Does this make the cookware unsafe to cook in? If the pots are pitted are they unsafe to cook in?
Thank you for any info you can give me on this.

Willie May Freeman
- Alvin, Texas

May 2, 2009

A. Sandpaper to clean cast aluminum? I wouldn't use it...
I have always used SOS pads because they make my pans shinier than they were to begin with. The Shinier, the less sticking. I love my pans, my parents used them, and my relations all died due to high blood pressure, stroke, etc. (from eating too much and too high of fat with no exercise!) No Alzheimer's in my extended family at all.

Dorothy Winn
- Fresno, California, USA

March 17, 2012

A. Dorothy Winn: I use SOS pads on my cast aluminum cookware and as you stated; it comes out really bright and shiny. I have been using my cookware for 46 years and I have seen nothing to suggest mental problems for my husband is 87 and still can remember phone numbers better than I can. Also he is still active with his cows and sells cows for people.

Carolyn Kiesewetter
- Hallettsville, Texas

May 14, 2009

thumbs up signNOW they tell me. Well, actually, I learned about it several years ago. In 1970, I set up housekeeping with my parents' old Club Aluminum pots and pans. The big dutch oven was the perfect size for making...and storing...great spaghetti sauce. I have to admit, when I heard the Alzheimer's story, I stopped using the Club. I recently took the Club pieces out of storage and have begun using them again. Nothing else cooks quite the same. I do use glass or other containers to store....now, what was I talking about?

Faith Dower
- Harrisville, West Virginia

July 14, 2009

A. I believe that using aluminum to cook with can harm you. Ted Mooney obviously has a strong opinion for it and probably monetarily motivated. Any substance heated up to the degrees used in cooking will give off some of the substance either in a gaseous or solid state. Heating aluminum up to over 120 degrees will make some of it it go into the food you are preparing. Heavy metals are stored in the brain and are directly linked to Alzheimer's. Over a long period of time the amount will build up and store in the brain causing memory loss. Stay away from aluminum cookware, you and your family are worth it.

Mike Wilson
- Dallas, Texas

July 14, 2009

thumbs up signHi, Mike. You and Charles Mills and anyone else are welcome to cook with whatever you wish, to hold any opinion you wish, and to have your opinions posted here -- except for ad hominem insults like "probably monetarily motivated" which are character assassination, foul the thread instead of moving it forward, and make you look juvenile. And you'll see the same accusations here on the threads about stainless steel cookware, steel cookware, teflon cookware, and every other alternative.

But I'll trust the previously quoted, peer-reviewed opinion of the Alzheimer's Association (an opinion supported by WHO, NIH and EPA) over your opinions until you cite some important peer-reviewed papers that you've delivered on the subject ... we await your bibliography.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

October 18, 2009

! I am now 63 and this is the very first response that I have EVER given to ANY site! However in the 70's you will recall that an aluminum anodized cooking system was introduced via home cooking demonstrations. We bought some, and when cooking tomatoes, the anodizing came off. We continued to use it, and my wife loves her antique cast aluminum even today. It spreads heat so fast and works well. But here is why I responded: As you read down this page you see so many responses, some motivated by what I would call common sense, and some I would call radical in a sense. Ten years ago doctors told us not to eat eggs, they were very bad for you! Now look they did a 180 degree turn. Butter too is a Killer they say,, my neighbor up the road is a farmer with whole milk containing tons of fat, they and I are still here and I love my butter. I think the Bible was right when it states "moderation in all things", even my glass of wine.

So thanks for this great site, and the aluminum cookware info, I for one use it, but I don't use steel wool on it. When I sold cookware in the 70's we used a powder cleaner and polish for the aluminum, then washed with soap then dried,, good health to you all ...

Errol Stewart
watchmaker/jeweler - China, Maine

January 21, 2010

thumbs up signTed,
I just finished reading through the past 2 years of entries on this thread. As a high school science teacher, I really appreciate that repeatedly, you gently point people back to the science and evidence on the issue.

While we do know there is a link between Alzheimers and aluminum there currently is no CAUSAL evidence. One thing we do have direct evidence of, is that the actual amount of aluminum possibly leached from aluminum cookware is relatively small compared to other potential sources. With the internet, we can find thousands of things that we are told to be afraid of, that have no evidence to back them up. Thank you for your part in encouraging people to look at the evidence and for promoting scientific literacy.

Doug Jipping
- Chattanooga, Tennessee

March 17, 2010

thumbs up signGood discussions.
I am wondering if anyone has heard or has reference to ingested aluminum concentrating in the pancreas or other organs. Also, any studies on free radicals relative to aluminum? I used to be a health food vegetarian but noticed that a lot of people who use their brains and are moderate with just about everything including zealotry seem to live a long time. Genes and attitude and emotional health seem to be the biggest factors.
Science is king but not infallible. Research and an open mind and open sources are vital.

stephen bourne
- putney, Vermont

April 13, 2010

A. I think it's better to use natural materials like ceramic cookware or stainless steel to be on the safe side. It's not worth risking your health after all in doubting materials.

Andrew B [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- Malta

April 13, 2010

Hi, Andrew. I have no problem with your advice, except that I don't quite understand it.

How is stainless steel "natural"? It involves mining chromium from South Africa or Kazakhstan, nickel from Russia or Canada, and molybdenum from the USA or China, and smelting all these metals together, etc.

If you were saying that ceramic is the natural material, I agree that it is a "low tech" material, but aren't we right back to aluminum as being a principal component of china clay (kaolin) and fire clay? Plus there is currently great concern over the lead content in many ceramic pieces :-)


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

May 9, 2010

Q. This is not so much a response as a related question. I bought aluminum pots online and did not realize they come from Korea. I have nothing per se against the Koreans, however, the country is fairly unstable and not so friendly towards us. Now this being an imported product I am sure the import checkers or whatever they're called, would have looked things over. They can't do that at the origin though. Is there a lead test for this aluminum cookware that is easy and inexpensive or should I just mark it up as a loss & pitch'em?
Thanks, Liz

Liz Gallagher
- Bowling Green, Ohio

A. Hi, Liz. About those mythical "import checkers". There were certainly no such people when Walmart sold cadmium jewelry for kids, and MacDonalds gave out children's glasses painted with lead paint. When I buy computer accessories they often come straight from Asia in boxes that no one has ever opened for inspection. The FDA recently found that 12% of all imported spices contain rodent hair and insect parts, and 7% contained salmonella.

Please don't rely on inspection by U.S. authorities, because I think that is wishful thinking that harks back to the way things might have been in the sixties or earlier. We are choking under imported foods from every hovel in the world, and products that no American regulatory agency has even glanced at. Both political parties have completely sold out to the megacorps, approving the Transpacific partnership, outlawing GMO labeling, outlawing putting "country of origin" on the meat you buy, encouraging import of salad greens harvested from berms under latrines in third-world ghettos without labeling -- so I'm not especially worried about what kind of pot I serve this stuff in :-)

I don't think lead is a real concern in aluminum cookware, but see www.springerlink.com/content/g41447801354380v/ which suggests bringing 5% acetic acid (vinegar) to simmer temperature in it a couple of times. Good luck.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


A. I want to answer Liz G's concerns about Korean products by pointing out that South Korea (where her pots were made) is a close US ally. Many Koreans hold a fairly warm attitude towards the US, despite the opinions held by their neighbor to the north.

Daniel Walfield
- Arlington, Virginia, USA

May 15, 2010

! I did some research and I was surprised with fact that
- Hindalium pots are heavily used in India, today
- India started using Alumina Pots recently since 50-60 years
- Ayurveda strongly suggest not to use any Alumina pots as cookware and traditionally alumina alloy pots were never been used in Indian family.
- First consignment of Alumina pots was supplied into Indian Jail to use for Indian prisoners, by British.

I hope above facts will help to choose what is good and safe for your health.

Satish Mishra
- Pune India

July 31, 2010

thumbs up signDear Ted,

Thank you so much for the site and your handling of this unclear--but clearly provocative--issue. I teach religious studies in college so you know I love discussions of unclear and provocative issues!

I just inherited my dad's old 14" aluminum dutch oven, the veteran of hundreds of stews and sourdoughs on Sierra Nevada pack trips. I dearly want to use it but my wife was concerned with possible health issues. After reviewing the posts and links in this thread, the irony is that now I'm concerned about lead instead! I know my dad--who was a physician and loved real evidence--would be happy for me to follow the cautious and yet evidence-based route. So I'm camping this coming week in the Yosemite high country and I'll be boiling vinegar in my oven today!

Good wishes,

Franz Metcalf
- Los Angeles, California, USA

August 2, 2010

Hi, Franz. Thanks for the kind words.

The jury is not in, and may never be in, on ten thousand different issues of what is safe and what is not. Partly because it's all relative: you can safely consume a small amount of cyanide in almonds, lima beans, and apple pips every day of your life, despite it being an extremely powerful poison; and you can die from drinking too much water.

Personally, I feel that if a chemical is new and highly artificial, a lot of caution is in order. But if it has been widely used by hundreds of millions of people for my whole lifetime and my parents lifetime, like aluminum has, and a tremendous amount of research has been done on its possible hazards, without finding anything conclusive, it simply can't be that dangerous :-)

Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 11, 2010

! I think this is a really great discussion. I find it interesting that 'common sense' and is so much more convincing to people than science; that anecdotes outweigh evidence, and that both the State and vaguely defined commercial interests are conspiring against us all the time (I would accept 'some of the time', but then how could I differentiate?). It seems amazing to me that 'alternative' authorities (if such exist) are apparently paragons of virtue, with no particular perspective to promote ... in spite of the fact that 'alternative' everything is huge business.
In my country, and I am sure in the US, the AMOUNT that is eaten is far more significant a risk factor than what it is cooked in. Life is in fact a mighty dodgy process, but it has been greatly improved by the benefits of science. So I also recommend a 'common sense' approach ... go with the scientific evidence. I use both aluminium and stainless steel cookware, and select each item based on its appropriateness for the job. I thank you for giving me access to the science that will support my decision.

Scott Ray
- Auckland, New Zealand

August 14, 2010

Q. Please address pitting specifically --

I have just had a wonderful, intellectually stimulating read of the aluminum cookware thread. Well done!

I just purchased a ton (well, not really a ton, but a lot) of cast aluminum cookware. My hubby hates stainless and loves the aluminum. This is very old cookware and some is heavily pitted. Are there issues with the pitting other than the possible leaching of aluminum? Can they be cleaned properly? Right now they are in pretty bad shape with cooked on grease on the outsides, but Hubby is willing to clean that if I will use the cookware.

Again, thanks for the most informative thread, but please address pitting specifically.

Lillian Kusmik
retired secretary/current artist - Meadowview, Virginia, USA

January , 2011

A. Hi, Lillian. Pits obviously make a pot harder to clean, but I don't think they pose additional dangers. I mentioned above that I use a Biletti expresso maker that had little if any anodizing on it. It pitted, although I blame myself for probably putting it away wet instead of drying it. I would suggest that you try cooking vinegar in it, dump the vinegar, of course, and from that point forward clean it only with soap and cook only non-acidic foods in it (avoid stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce).


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 23, 2010

Q. Ted,
Thanks for the great info here. I have a 21 yr old 8 qt Calphalon anodized stockpot. Now, the interior has gone quite silvery across the bottom and up the sides, where I cook stew, soups and jams (sure, lots of acids). What I want to understand is, did the anodizing harden the aluminum 'all the way through' or just a layer on top? In other words, with the color gone, I am assuming the anodizing property is gone. True? I no longer am concerned about any health risk, but am curious. Thanks!

Michelle White
I cook! - Salem, Michigan, USA

August 24, 2010

A. Hi, Michelle. Anodizing is a surface treatment that converts the aluminum on the skin to aluminum oxide and aluminum hydroxide. The hard anodized layer on new cookware was about .002" thick.


Ted Mooney, finishing.com Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey

August 24, 2010

thumbs up signThanks! I have nothing that performs as well as this (uncoated) stockpot. After being told a few days ago by a saleswoman that I should throw it away because it lost it's coating, and that she was surprised it lasted over 7 years, I started some research. I originally bought anodized, thinking it would not leach into the food and would last forever. Well, the first no longer seems to be a real problem, and the second is a sure thing. Even w/out the coating, I've never had off-tasting food with it, or burned food! I no longer see the need to spend over $300 to replace it with a premium Stainless. Your research ended my research- thanks again.

michelle white
- salem, Michigan USA

September 12, 2010

A. To quote John Emsley, an Oxford University chemistry
professor, from his book "Nature's Building Blocks
/ an a-z guide to the elements"
[paid link to Amazon]:

"Cooking in aluminium pans does not greatly increase the amount of aluminium in food except when cooking acidic foods such as rhubarb."

This convinced me. He also dispelled the myth of brain plaque, Alzheimer's, related to aluminum by noting that the research had been discredited.

Jonathan W. Edwards
- Stephens City, Virginia, USA

September 29, 2010

A. I have been told for years not to allow tomatoes to remain in an aluminum pot. I have several pieces of Club Aluminum but I never cook and let set tomatoes for fear of poisoning someone.

Peggy Webb
Cook - Grapevine, Arkansas

October 9, 2010

A. I have a hodge-podge of pots and pans; cast aluminum, stainless, and stainless with aluminum bottoms or an aluminum layer inside the bottoms. My mother always warned to wash aluminum by hand because it discolors and she may have intuited that it does something to the anodized surface. Plain stainless simply doesn't heat up, maintain even heat or clean as well. Things burn easily on the bottom. I do like the combination of stainless with aluminum bottoms. For cooking a large amount of soup or stew, the cast aluminum is my only huge pot and frankly, the only material that would cook as well and be easy to clean in the end. I'm very wary of health-related discoveries but when the jury is out, use common sense. If I make soup that has some tomato, as I just did, I transfer it to other containers afterward. I wouldn't make a tomato soup in it.
Likewise, wine, being acidic, shouldn't sit long in even the finest crystal glasses because of the lead, yet how many people throw away their crystal glasses or even know about this, as so many more do about uncertified ceramics of dubious origins? Crystal glasses: the glass gets emptied summarily. Crystal decanter? Not such a good idea if it's there very long. Abandon the microwave? Draconian. Just stand a few feet away. Use hard containers, cover with a paper towel instead of plastic wrap, etc.
I believe we have all been exposed to many hazards which weren't recognized in the past, and unfortunately many cannot be avoided going forward. But these scares, particularly before being researched by disinterested parties, will always be alarmist and controversial. Choose your priorities and use common sense and go with your gut.

Martha Aarons
- Cleveland, Ohio, US

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