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Is There a Danger in Cast Aluminum Cookware?

Intro / synopsis: What is the black smut that sometimes rubs off aluminum cookware? Is it dangerous? Can cookware be used if anodizing has worn off? What causes pitting? Is there a relationship with Alzheimer's? A discussion with all sides heard.

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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 [in bulk on eBay or Amazon affil links] treatment, 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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

!! 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
March 3, 2009

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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
March 28, 2009

A. Sandpaper to clean cast aluminum? I wouldn't use it...
I have always used SOS pads [on eBay or Amazon affil link] 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
May 2, 2009

A. Dorothy Winn: I use SOS pads [on eBay or Amazon affil link] 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
March 17, 2012

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, what was I talking about?

Faith Dower
- Harrisville, West Virginia
May 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

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

! 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
October 18, 2009

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

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 as well :-)

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
April 13, 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
May 9, 2010

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 which suggests bringing 5% acetic acid (vinegar) to simmer temperature in it a couple of times. Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - 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

! 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
May 15, 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
July 31, 2010

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

! 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 11, 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
August 14, 2010

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
January , 2011

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 23, 2010

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,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

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
August 24, 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 12, 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
September 29, 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
October 9, 2010

Q. I am considering throwing out my Calphalon pots, HELP! I have a few that unfortunately stayed on the burner a bit too long, and the "anodized" coating got burned off. Shame, really... I like these pots and I've been cooking with them in this worn-out condition for several years now, but my friends have me convinced I am poisoning myself! What should I do... replace... or shrug off a bit of leaching? Thanks!
Kate Curtis
- Seattle, Washington USA
October 21, 2010

Q. I have a stock pot that I bought from a cheap catalog place (cost about $17, and I believe it is stainless steel because I would not buy an aluminum pot knowingly. I planned to brine my turkey in it, but found out there is no marking on the pot or lid that says that it is stainless steel. I used an oven bag as a liner in the pot just to be safe, but the brine leaked out and the turkey and brine are exposed to the inside of the pot. Now I am concerned that the turkey will kill us all or make us sick. Do I take a chance this once and eat the bird, or is it a safe bet that the pot really is stainless steel. Thank you.
karen matthews
Grandmother - pittsburgh Pennsylvania usa
November 25, 2010

November 25, 2010

A. Hi, Karen. Happy Thanksgiving.

Aluminum is much lighter than stainless steel, 1/3 the weight, so you should be able to guess from that. Some stainless steel may be magnetic; aluminum is never magnetic, so if there is any trace of magnetism then it is not aluminum. Paracelsus said that poison is in the dose; so, with I and hundreds of millions of others using aluminum pots every day of our lives and still here to talk about it, yes, it is safe for you to do it just this once :-)

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

thumbs up signThanks Ted for your insightful advice. Years ago I bought a set of enamel pots, then became paranoid when someone pointed out they were produced in South Africa and contained lead. Then I bought iron pots and was told they weren't safe until they were well seasoned. So I opted for Teflon coated pots and was told that the coating wasn't safe. The leaded crystal I bought for my wedding was also unsafe if I used it for acidic drinks or wine.


This week my husband and I finally chucked our decades old pitted and deteriorating pots and bought a set of Bialetti aluminum cookware last night. My mother immediately expressed concern about the link between Alzheimer's and said she'd replaced her aluminum pots with something else. Now given that she's a feisty retiree, that's saying a lot.

I like the new pots and since I'm a trained engineer who is "retentive" about researching details I started looking for info to set her mind at ease. I couldn't find any definitive causal relationships so I asked my husband, a physician, his opinion and he said he wasn't inclined to take the pots back to the store.

We both agree that the rise in illness in the country is likely caused by a host of things, not to mention the accumulation of toxic chemicals (pesticides, factory waste, etc.), poor diet, lack of physical and intellectual stimulation, high stress, and artificial food additives in our daily lives. The pots are the least of my worries.

Guess we'll be enjoying them. Thank you for helping with that decision.

Christine Taylor
- Kansas City, Missouri
December 12, 2010

December 30, 2010

thumbs up signAs the cynic I am, methinks lawyers started the "aluminum is poison" movement. Nothing quite starts the day off like a good class-action lawsuit of an evil greedy corporation trying to kill old people. I would trust the Alzheimer's association by leaps and bounds over the WHO and the EPA. WHO has shelved research that didn't fit the expected/desired result. Second hand smoke being the reference here. Love how you breakdown the unbeliever's emotional and seemingly factless replies.

Merry Holidays and happy Christmas
Jim Musselman
- Oakdale, Illinois, USA

Q. Wowza! Nice Debate. Ok, I came across a brand spanking new stain resistant "cast aluminum with magnesium" pot (dutch oven). Even has the label on it. I was wondering about this magnesium addition and if that is a benefit or detriment. It's funny as it says on the label to use a bit of steel wool to keep it bright.

Anyway, I'm going to wash it up and give it a whirl.

Thinking back, I think my mom's pots were a lot of aluminum - so I'm not so concerned.

So, what is the deal with the magnesium?
Jill Carpenter
- Shrewsbury, Vermont USA
January 1, 2011

A. Hi, Jill. Milk of Magnesia, which people take as an antacid, is magnesium hydroxide. I doubt that an aluminum-magnesium pot could deliver a single small dose of magnesium over a lifetime. No worries. As for whether it cooks better or looks better, I don't know. Magnesium does tend to quickly go grayish (see letter 03 about the demise of true mag wheels -- almost all 'mag' wheels today are actually aluminum), hence the steel wool brightening suggestion.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
January 2, 2011

Q. My question is in regards to an heirloom griddle that one of my great grandfathers made out of cast aluminum near the turn of the last century. I recently removed the crusty patina in order to re-season it, and discovered a crack in the side. It is fairly small and remained unnoticed till now, but I'd like to know how I could go about getting it repaired.
Daniel Walfield
- Arlington, Virginia, USA
April 4, 2011

silly :-)

thumbs up signI have been reading all these postings, interesting; my response is meant to be light hearted and comical. On a few occasions I have cooked, on a few of those occasions I have fallen asleep and burned my food and pans. This last time, I burned by stainless steel 2 qt pan and steamer so bad I had to throw them out. I went to Wal Mart and bought a complete set of aluminum, non stick coated pans the first new pans I have bought since I bought stainless in the 1970's. My mom raised a fit stating all of the "bad" things about aluminum, so I got on-line and purchased anodized aluminum non-stick coated pans, two 2 qt pans. Now the funny thing is that I use this size to heat my condensed soup, which I love, usually I don't cook because I like fast food and especially tacos. So I guess, It is a good thing I don't cook much?

The best joke I ever read was that "research scientists have been proven to cause cancer in small lab animals".

Have a good day
Kathy Harvey
- Vista, California, USA
April 10, 2011

! Aluminum does in fact pass quite easily through the blood brain barrier and works synergistically with fluoride to cause neurological problems.

Skeptics have (in the past) doubted the toxic effects of: Lead, Asbestos, DDT, Mercury, etc.... Now we know otherwise. My lead off statement has not been proven but the initial lawsuits against John Mansville (asbestos products) started in the 1920's and anyone who thought asbestos was a health risk was a nut. After all, asbestos is just processed serpentine rock, the state rock of California no less.

Give it time and aluminum/Fluoride in concert will be regarded as a severe health risk, wait and see.
Dan Berg
- San Diego, California, USA
June 8, 2011

Q. Regarding the "Is there a danger in Cast aluminum cookware?" blog.

I see lots of statements like "aluminum is one of the most abundant elements in nature", but most of these are bound up in aluminum oxides. Does any of the medical research differentiate between aluminum and its oxides, or do they tend to just look at mass spectrometer data that only shows the percentage of elements in tested materials? Just wondering if this matters in any of the discussions about using aluminum for cooking.
Bill Hackbarth
cook - Colchester, Connecticut, USA
July 4, 2011

A. Interesting comments from all. I would only add the following saying which I live my life according to.

"Everything is a poison,........Nothing is a poison,.........It is the dose that makes the poison......"

By this reasoning you can see that we are exposed, consume, ingest and contact many naturally occurring materials over a life time. Some unfortunately man made, most naturally occurring.

So the complimentary saying I use is....."A little bit of everything does no harm." So live life to the full and make the most of moderation.
Martin Smith
- Munich, Germany
July 17, 2011

A. Ted: May I add my congratulations to your very non-emotional attitude in dealing with this discussion.

Although I read this thread mainly for information, I would like to comment on Dan's post from June, 9th: There are without doubt enough cases that correct early-warners were (to the detriment of everybody) ignored, but the cases cited by Dan are not the best examples:

On one side we have cases like Asbestos and DDT where science (eventually isolated scientists) first proved the negative effects, but those were mostly ignored. Increased public awareness led to political action later. The significant delay of political action in case of Asbestos is good fodder for either conspiracy theories or justified complaints about the interconnection of industry and government, but in the 1920s the health risks of Asbestos were well established in the scientific community.

On the other hand, we have cases such as Mercury (the vaccine/autism discussion, nobody doubts the toxicity of Mercury in general) and Aluminum, where the **scientific** consensus does not see a significant risk, but meets an unproportional public awareness.

While it is undoubtedly correct that isolated warners **sometimes** have proved the scientific community wrong (and these cases are re-warmed forever and ever), in **most cases** isolated warners are just plain wrong and easily forgotten when their, often unsubstantiated, views were proven wrong by reality. (Who remembers nowadays the fears that traveling with 30 mph in a train will kill you by forcing your blood to the back of you body?)

It is unfortunate that the human nature (and I do not exclude myself) makes us trust the Don-Quichottian warner, in particular **because** he is fighting the windmills of big, multinational organizations. But it is not reasonable.
Frank S.
- Montreal, QC, Canada
October 12, 2011

Q. My Dad who lived to be 87 had some concerns about aluminum in our systems and forbade my mother from buying drinks in aluminum cans or using aluminum cookware. It was not based on Alzheimer's as that disease was not so prevalent back in the 40's and 50's. It was based on his knowledge of mining and chemicals.
Alzheimers seems to be a major health issue in the past few decades, and I wonder more about the aluminum canned drinks having more of an effect than the cookware.
Rose Leonard
- Novato, California, USA
January 1, 2012

Q. Some number of years ago, a tribe was investigated for having a high prevalence of dementia. Turns out, they lived off local land mostly and the soil had high concentrations of aluminum.

Since around that time, aluminum cans have been coated with a thin plastic lining to protect aluminum from leeching out.

I wish I remembered the original article but somebody might know what I'm talking about.
Ryan Chris
- Nashville, Tennessee, USA
January 29, 2012

Q. I love the thread!

My question is about aluminum percolators. If it causes more leeching to cook acidic foods like tomatoes in aluminum, does coffee have the same effect?
Dan Brown
- College Park, Maryland, USA
February 8, 2012

February 24, 2012

thumbs up signI'm a World War 2 re-enactor and one of my pieces of kit is an original German aluminium mess kit. The aluminium was badly pitted but, after a couple of simmers with lemon juice, it has 'cleaned up' quite well, although some pitting remains.

Thanks to this thread, I will be using the mess kit to cook and eat out of at shows and training events to stay authentic.

Thanks guys, and particularly Ted. :-)
Andy Gibson
- Cork, Ireland

! I just found my mother's aluminum cookware in almost perfect condition. It's a four piece set. I cleaned it very well; however, before I started using it, I wanted to check the safety of cooking with it. I have been reading a lot about it and its connection to Alzheimer's disease. My mother is 86 years old and has Alzheimer's disease. It began about 10-12 years ago with repeating herself every few minutes, forgetfulness, lack of balance, etc. She is now in a nursing home with full blown dementia. She does not recognize anyone, can't speak, can't feed herself, paralysis among other things. Of course, my apprehension about using the cookware is well warranted. I think I will just put it back in the basement and look at it.
Janis Fox
- Erie, Pennsylvania, USA
March 3, 2012

November 2013

Hi Janis. I'm neither a doctor nor an epidemilogist, of course, but Alzheimers is to my knowledge a disease mostly affecting the elderly. Our increased lifespan is surely one of the reasons we see Alzheimers in 86 year old people and didn't see it in their parents who died at 60. Similarly, doctors tell us that most men today will die with prostate cancer (not OF ... WITH) because we are living longer.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

March 24, 2012

Please look this web site up . . .

"Cookware made from materials that carry with them substantial risk of toxicity, even if research shows relatively little leaching of their toxic substances, should automatically not be considered to be among your best options. We would put aluminum cookware into this category. In the past five years, we've seen over 100 studies about aluminum and disease. This metal has consistently been placed in the top 200 health-jeopardizing toxins by the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry) at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We realize that many improvements have been made in aluminum pots and pans with the advent of anodized aluminum (in which a thicker aluminum oxide layer is created on the surface of the pan). Yet, we still recommend avoidance of aluminum cookware due to the potential toxicity of aluminum itself. (This focus on the health aspects of aluminum cookware does not even take into account environmental problems related to the mining and dressing of aluminum.)"

Polly Friend
- Oceanside, California

thumbs up signThanks Poly. W H Foods is certainly welcome to their opinions, but I'm not seeing where they are introducing new facts into the discussion. My personal feeling is not that aluminum is "safer" than those other materials, but again that: with hundreds of millions of people using aluminum cookware for generations and nothing even vaguely close to a "smoking gun", the "safety" issue is very small.
There are degrees of danger in everything, but once the danger level is sufficiently low, it becomes impractical to let it guide our lives. If we focus on remote dangers, you might also die from a staph infection from dropping that heavy cast iron pot on your toe, whereas you wouldn't have if you used a lighter aluminum one :-) I'm not qualified to fully compare the overall environmental impact of aluminum to other materials, but the reason aluminum is so very recyclable is precisely because it's a lot more expensive to mine and "dress" new aluminum than to melt and re-use old. Contrast that with plastic which probably will never be really substantially recycled for the simple reason that it remains cheaper to make new plastic than to recover and recycle old. The Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch is bigger than Texas :-(

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 2013

A. I was born in 1947, my mother in 1909. Since I can remember as a young child, my mother cooked both on the stovetop and in the oven using the anodized aluminum & magnesium products. Also some cast iron. I now use the same, having inherited them from her.

My mother lived to be the same age as my Grandmother 88. My father lived to almost 90. NEITHER of them had ANY signs whatsoever of dementia or Alzheimers - yet both ate foods cooked almost exclusively in these "aluminum" pots.

I'm far more concerned about the fluoride in my toothpaste and water, and I, for one, will continue to use these pots till I die.
Sharon Williams
- Fresno, California, USA
April 22, 2012

Q. This interesting reading raises new questions.

Is the aluminium in non-anodised cookware the same material right through from inside to outside. Sorry, I don't know any better to describe it.

If it is a single material, not layers, why does it look black in the pitting and why do so many writers specify using cleaning pads and seem to advise against steel wool, which makes aluminium shine?

My well used electric frying pan and pressure cooker are both pitted plain aluminium, over 50 years old and have been frequently cleaned with steel wool. Does this suggest any cause for concern or the vinegar?

Would pressure cooking have any different effects from saucepans or baking dishes or cake tins?
Naomi McPhee
- Kelvin, NSW, Australia
December 14, 2012

February 4, 2013

A. Hi Naomi.

1. Yes, non-anodized aluminum would be expected to be a single homogeneous material all the way through from inside to outside except as explained below.

2. Anodizing is a carefully engineered process for causing aluminum to react with oxygen to form a thick and durable aluminum oxide skin; but if you don't anodize aluminum, it is a reactive metal, so it will still react with oxygen in the atmosphere to form a thin aluminum oxide on the surface anyway. In a pitted spot, the oxide skin doesn't wear off as quickly, so it builds thicker and blacker. You see the same effect on gold jewelry like a high school ring, where the high spots will wear and be bright while the low spots are dark.

3. I see no special circumstance here due to age, steel wool, or pressurization.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Thanks for the great read, Ted. I've found the answer here, and it's perfectly clear and empirically derived from the large sample of testimony: aluminum, if it poses any health risk at all, only does so to males--grandmothers appear to live to ripe old ages regardless of their exposure. ;)
Chuck Cram
- Rossland, BC, Canada
February 4, 2013

thumbs up signYou got it!
Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
February 9, 2013

Q. So is it safe to cook in a aluminum "Club" roasting pan?
Carol A Decoeur
- Oakridge, Tennessee
August 10, 2013

Hi Carol. That's been the subject of the discussion for about a hundred postings now. Please don't make me turn back, I was hoping to be near the end :-)

Luck and regards,
Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey

Q. I bought two Club Aluminum large pots at an estate sale today but upon examination at home I noticed one piece was very 'pitted'. I'm 83 - my mom had Guardian Ware but I don't remember any 'pitting' on the inside bottom surface. Do you think it is safe to use it? After years of cooking with electric I now have a gas range and have burned up two pots this past year. help.
JoAnn Carmody
grandma - St. Louis, Missouri, USA
October 19, 2013

Q. Hi. Thanks for the opportunity to post.

My name is Ellen and my husband and I want to get into camping. Rather than having to buy a lot of pots and pans to store and use for camping we'd like to save money and use our everyday pots and pans.

Can anyone tell me if it is safe to use anodized aluminum pots and pans over a campfire without ruining them? Thanks.
Ellen McNeill
- Fletcher, NC, USA
October 27, 2013

A. Hi Ellen. I think cooking on an open fire will almost surely ruin them, i.e., get their outsides stained so dirty that you'll never be able to get them clean enough to want to put them back in your kitchen. It's not so much that the fire is hotter as the fact that wood fires are very very sooty.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
November 2013

Q. Hi, does acidic foods cause pitting in Guardian aluminum cookware? I bought one at a thrift shop that was in excellent condition, with pitting in the bottom of the inside. I seem to remember from some where that one should not put acidic foods into aluminum cookware. I hope that idea is false as I was almost to the end of making a pot of spaghetti sauce before I thought of this. Can anyone help.
Connie Gilbert
- Vista, California USA
March 15, 2014

A. Hi Connie. Probably. Please look above for comments from Jack Brown and Lillian Kusmik on that subject. Most metals, including aluminum, dissolve to varying degrees in acid; some metals, including aluminum, dissolve in alkaline.

I don't think there is any harm in your spaghetti sauce, but in general aluminum is not the right container for acidic foods, and should not be dishwasher cleaned since automatic dishwashers usually use strongly alkaline detergents. Bon appetit.

Ted Mooney,
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha - Pine Beach, New Jersey
March 2014

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