Washington state will become first state to ban lead in cookware

Yesterday Washington state Governor Jay Inslee signed the Lead in Cookware Act, the first bill in the U.S. to ban toxic lead in pots and pans and other cookware.

The bill bans any manufacturing or sales of cookware or related components that contain more than 5 parts per million (ppm) of lead by 2026. Scientists agree there is no safe level of lead exposure. Children are especially vulnerable and lead is linked to developmental problems, behavior issues, lower IQs, learning problems, high blood pressure and kidney damage.

“We are thrilled that the state legislature and Governor Inslee have put a ban on lead in cookware to protect the most vulnerable populations,” said Megan Liu, science and policy manager for Toxic-Free Future, 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 bill, sponsored by Rep. Gerry Pollet (D-46), came on the heels of Toxic-Free Future testing in 2022 to 2023 that found high levels of lead in pots, pans and pressure cookers. Some products contained more than 1,600 ppm of lead.

Researchers have found lead in a variety of cooking products, but it is especially an issue for products imported from countries with weaker regulations. Washington state’s Department of Health found children that immigrated from Afghanistan had higher blood lead levels than other children in the state, according to 2016-2020 data. While there are other sources of lead exposure — including some spices, cosmetics and jewelry — the Toxic-Free Future testing found aluminum and brass cookpots from Afghanistan contained high lead levels.

“We are really pleased with the result of this legislative session; it’s the culmination of years of research work and partnerships with the community,” said Katie Fellows, an environmental scientist on the research services team for the Hazardous Waste Management Program in King County, in a statement. “Even small exposures can cause serious and permanent health issues. Individuals who are low-income, immigrants and refugees, and people of color are at increased risk of lead poisoning.