The utensils that are used to cook food often do more than just hold the food. Molecules of substances can leach from the utensil into the food that is being cooked. Three of the substances that are used in utensils are aluminum, lead, and iron. Both lead and aluminum have been associated with illness.
Up to about 52% of all cookware is made with aluminum. However, research has shown that the amount of aluminum leached into food from this cookware is very small.
Children should be protected from ceramic cookware containing lead. Acidic foods such as oranges, tomatoes, or foods with vinegar will cause more lead to be leached from ceramic cookware than nonacidic foods like milk. More lead will leach into hot liquids like coffee, tea, and soups than into cold beverages. Any dishware that has a dusty or chalky gray residue on the glaze after it has been washed should not be used.
Also, any ceramic cookware bought abroad or categorized as a craft, antique, or collectable may not meet FDA specifications, and should not be used to hold food. Test kits can detect high levels of lead in ceramic cookware, but may not detect lower levels that are also potentially dangerous.
See also: Lead - nutritional considerations
For more information on dietary exposure to lead, visit the FDA Center for Safety and Applied Nutrition website - http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov
There is significant evidence that cooking in cast iron pots increases the amount of iron in the diet. This is usually a very small source of dietary iron.
Most cookware bought in reputable retail stores will not pose any health risks. Use caution when buying cookware from other sources.
See also: Iron in diet