Washington becomes first state to ban lead in cookware

Mar 29, 2024, 7:50 AM | Updated: Apr 3, 2024, 11:24 am

lead cookware washington...

The Hazardous Waste Management Program inspecting aluminum cookpots and pressure cookers for lead poisoning. (Photo courtesy of the Hazardous Waste Management Program)

(Photo courtesy of the Hazardous Waste Management Program)

Governor Jay Inslee signed the Lead in Cookware Act Thursday, banning lead from any products used to cook food, becoming the first state in the U.S. to do so.

“This gives the Department of Ecology the authority to regulate cookware made and sold the Washingtonians to ensure it does not contribute to lead exposure,” Inslee said Thursday as he was signing the bill.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), officially bans any manufacturing or sales of cookware or related components that contain more than five parts per million (ppm) of lead by 2026. It passed on a 47-0 vote (two excused) in the Senate before passing in the House on a 96-0 vote (one excused).

More on products infused with lead: Cinnamon products prompt Washington Poison Center health warnings

“We are thrilled that the state legislature and Governor Inslee have placed a ban on lead in cookware to protect the most vulnerable populations,” Megan Liu, science and policy manager for Toxic-Free Future, said in a statement. “We have seen firsthand the high levels of lead contaminating cookware across communities in King County, and it is shocking that brain-harming lead can still be found in cookware.”

The King County Hazardous Waste Management Program conducted 17 lead testing events throughout King County in 2022-23, finding high levels of lead in a variety of cookware including pots, pans and pressure cookers.

The tests found some products contained as much as 1,624 ppm of lead, which is more than 300 times the limit that will be in place in Washington.

Researchers have discovered lead in a variety of cooking products — especially products from imported countries with weaker regulations. Scientists from King County’s Hazardous Waste program worked alongside the South King County Afghan Health Initiative to pinpoint sources of dangerously high lead levels in the blood of newly arrived Afghan immigrant children.

Washington’s Department of Health (DOH) found children who immigrated from Afghanistan had higher blood lead levels than other children in the state, according to 2016-2020 data, leading to the King County’s Hazardous Waste Program and the South King County Afghan Health Initiative to find what was causing the dangerously-high lead levels. Testing by the King County Hazardous Waste Management Program eventually found aluminum and brass cookpots from Afghanistan contained high lead levels.

More on product recalls: What you should do when you own a product that has been recalled

“Even small exposures can cause serious and permanent health issues,” Katie Fellows, an environmental scientist for the Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, said in a prepared statement. “Individuals who are low-income, immigrants and refugees, and people of color are at increased risk of lead poisoning.”

Frank Sumrall is a content editor at MyNorthwest. You can read his stories here and you can email him here.

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