Do Artisanal Aluminium Pots Leech Toxic Metals Into Cooked Food?Shea Bethell
Article and Research courtesy of Angela Mathee – [email protected]
THE POTENTIAL FOR EXPOSURE TO TOXIC METALS FROM FOODS COOKED IN ARTISANAL ALUMINIUM POTS
Increased awareness in recent years of the practice of smelting waste aluminium to craft cooking pots, has raised concern over the potential for leaching of toxic metals into cooked foods, and the associated health risks, including lowered IQ scores, learning difficulties and behavioural problems.
Preliminary leaching studies have confirmed an elevated risk of transfer of metals such as aluminium, arsenic and lead from pots to foods. Blood sampling has also shown elevated levels of lead in artisans crafting pots from molten waste metal, relative to community controls.
Aluminium for crafting cooking pots is usually sourced from vehicle wreckage, discarded laundry irons, sandwich makers, kettles and other items. Waste aluminium is melted in backyards of homesteads over simple fires, and the molten metal cast into basic moulds, and then cooled. The final products are not coated with a protective layer, as is the case for most cast iron pots, increasing the risk of leaching of toxic metals into cooked foods.
Artisanal aluminium cooking pots are known to be produced in at least three South African provinces, and sold in at least six, indicating the potential for considerable public health impact. Given the role of artisanal pots in the generation of livelihoods and cost savings in impoverished communities, the design and development of risk reduction interventions, and assurance of their feasibility and acceptability, is challenging.