Saturday, January 21, 2017

Is the Instant Pot Non-Toxic and Lead Free?

In case you haven't been in the know about food trends lately, the Instant Pot is taking the world by storm. 

It is popular with moms who need to get dinner ready fast (and may have forgotten to thaw meat before they left to go to work) as well as healthy lifestyles advocates because it is free of non-stick coatings like Teflon (read more about health concerns related to non-stick coatings here). 

Maybe you even have one in your kitchen.

I recently bought an Instant Pot for myself and love it. 

This weekend I had the chance to work with my friend and lead safety advocate, Tamara Rubin, to test my Instant Pot for heavy metal contaminants including lead. 

Wondering if your Instant Pot is really as non-toxic and lead free as you thought? Read on!

Why I Bought an Instant Pot

Before we get going too far, let's talk about why the heck I bought this thing in the first place.
  • The stainless steel pot. Many counter top rice cookers, slow cookers and pressure cookers contain unsafe chemicals including lead, cadmium and non-stick coatings. The Instant Pot boasts a stainless steel cooking surface instead - which is generally considered an ideal surface for food due to its nontoxic nature.
  • I like rice. "But it's so easy to just cook it on the stove in a stainless steel pot." Sure it is. As long as you aren't chasing a child or a chicken or a dog when the timer for the rice goes off so you can remove it from the burner so it doesn't burn. Not that I'd know anything about that....

    I used to own a rice cooker and it was the only thing I owned with a nonstick coating after I tossed my nonstick pans a few years ago.

    Nonstick coatings are concerning because they often contain PTFE, PFOA and PFAS (read more about toxic nonstick coatings here). Stainless steel rice cookers (that are stainless steel on the inside where it counts) are hard to find.
  • Multipurpose appliances save space. The Instant Pot is a rice cooker, pressure cooker, slow cooker, yogurt maker and warmer. It can replace both my rice cooker and slow cooker which helps me reduce clutter in my cabinets.
  • Convenience. Sometimes I forget to defrost my meat or soak my beans. Can you relate? The Instant Pot's pressure cooking function means I can speed up the process of cooking those foods significantly so that I can still get dinner on the table on time.
So that's why I like it. And I wanted to keep liking it! But let's talk about lead shall we?

XRF Testing

Tamara Rubin, the producer and director of MisLead: America's Secret Epidemic and renowned lead expert rented an XRF testing instrument this week to do some consumer goods testing. An XRF instrument is a precision scientific instrument which can detect even trace amount of heavy metals including lead, arsenic, cadmium, mercury and more. 

Here is a video of the Tamara and I testing my Instant Pot (click here to see the specific model we are testing), which was purchased in December of 2016.

The Results!

What we found when we tested different parts of the Instant Pot with an XRF Instrument:
  • Stainless steel inner cooking pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Stainless steel lid (outside of lid): Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Inner portion of steam release valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Anti-Block shield: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Power Cable: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Float Valve: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Steam Release: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Steaming rack: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Plastic tools: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Exterior pot: Non-Detect for Lead, Cadmium and Mercury
  • Heating unit disk: 1,400 PPM lead +/- 90 and 46 PPM cadmium +/- 11
  • Safety button in base of unit: 303 PPM for Lead +/- 36, Non detect for Cadmium and Mercury
So what does that mean?!
There are two key things to keep in mind when looking at these results:
  1. 1) All of the parts which contact your food directly tested negative for lead. Yay!
  2. 2) The amount of lead in the heating unit disk, while significant, is still less than the amount of lead that was in any of the Starbucks cups/mugs we tested. 

So what does that mean for you?
I can really only tell you what it means for me. 

I am of the opinion that we should avoid lead in our household goods as much as possible. 

If another company creates a lead-free version of the Instant Pot, you can bet I am going to buy that one instead! 

If Instant Pot makes a new and improved lead-free Instant Pot, you can bet I will pay to upgrade! 

However, I am not throwing my Instant Pot away (unlike my child's favorite mug which tested high for lead on the rim where your mouth touches the mug - but that's a story for a different day).

Tamara also wrote her own blog post with her thoughts on the test. Go here to read that!

Carissa Bonham

About the Author:

Carissa Bonham is a lifelong crafter and mom of two creative boys. The owner and lead writer at Creative Green Living, she won the Craftys Award for the "Best Craft Blogger" category in 2016 and the ShiftCon award for "Best DIY Blogger" in 2018.

Her goal is to empower families to make easy projects and healthier choices that are beautiful and delicious! She is also the author of the hardcover cookbook, Beautiful Smoothie Bowls (Skyhorse, 2017) and Proven Techniques for Keeping Healthy Chickens (Skyhorse, 2018). 

Her projects have been featured in magazines like Kids Crafts 1-2-3, Capper's Farmer and Urban Farm Magazine. Follow her on PinterestInstagramTwitter or join the Creative Green Living Tribe.
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  1. I'm curious if anyone has contacted and received a response from Instant Pot about this discovery?

    1. I have not contacted them but if you are a concerned Instant Pot owner, I hope you do!

  2. I really want to buy this, but I am concerned about the lead being right there with the heating element. Won't all that heat cause the lead to gas off? And would the pressure also have an effect?

    1. I am not a lab so I cannot say definitively whether the lead off-gasses BUT when you have the lid locked on (such as in pressure cooking mode), the food is locking inside an area that is entirely stainless steel so would not be exposed to lead at all.

  3. It passed the lead test but made from 18/8 stainless steel so nickel would be more of a concern than lead. You don't hear about nickel but I'd avoid it.

    1. Why didn't they test for Nickel? I have been researching this and Nickel leaches A lot from stainless steel that has it in it

    2. We were screening specifically for lead, cadmium and mercury so while the XRF does give a nickel readout, it wasn't the purpose of the testing so we didn't record those results.

  4. Thank you for providing this important information!

  5. Have you tested for styrene? I saw a friend's hot pot and it said contains "styrene"

    1. That's interesting. The instrument we used only tests for heavy metal content. We don't have a way to test for styrene.

  6. first off I would like to thank you for taking your time to testing all these products I don't know if somebody has mentioned this already I cannot read all of your reviews but what haqppens when you heat up the metal does it Leach that's my concern.

    1. None of the parts that contact the food or the steam contain lead so leaching is not a problem. Hope that helps.

  7. Hi was the rubber cap which covers the inner steam valve tested as well? What are the chances these rubber/silicone caps leach any chemicals back into the food over a period of time? Thanks

    1. All parts of the lid tested non-detect for lead and cadmium. I have no concerns about the inside of the lid of the pot we tested.

    2. Is the inner rubber rim BPA free? Thanks for helping 💖

    3. The inner rim is silicone, which doesn’t contain BPA.

      The hard plastic parts are polypropylene, which is also BPA free.

  8. I am glad to hear that the Instant Pot isn't poisoning us with lead but what about nickel? I recently read an article about stainless steel. It said that if a magnet doesn't stick to a stainless steel pot that this means that the pot is high in nickel content. A magnet does not stick to my instant pot.f

    1. The pot is made from 18/8 stainless steel. So it is 18% chromium and 8% nickel. I do not personally have concerns about the nickel content but if you have a nickel allergy or sensitivity, you may need to be aware of the different steel grades and what they mean for nickel content.

  9. Replies
    1. The XRF instrument is capable of testing for nickel but the purpose of this particular testing even was to screen for lead, cadmium and mercury so we did not record the results.

      The inner pot is made from 18/8 stainless steel, which means it is 18% chromium and 8% nickel.

  10. Thanks for doing this testing. Have you tested a newer pot? I just purchased one and after seeing your post I am concerned about the part with the lead.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Meredith. I have not tested another pot since doing this one.

  11. Based on the comments, maybe you should test for Nickel!!!

    1. The inner pot is 18/8 stainless steel, which means it contains up to 8% nickel. Nickel is present without a doubt. If you need to avoid nickel due to an allergy, this is not the appliance for you.

      I am testing a new (non-Instant Pot) cooler that should be metals free. I’ll share about that in the Facebook group if you are interested in following along:

  12. thank you immensely for doing this test/article!! I'm still on the fence about buying one.

  13. After reading all these comments..I who was so eager to go buy an instant pot..hon hones don't know which one to buy...

    1. I have the Duo (referral link = and have been very pleased with it.

      It's less expensive than the newer, fancier models and works just as well so I say save the money and go with that one!

  14. Can you point me to the mug you mentioned had lead on the rim?
    Also what do you buy instead of instant pot?

    1. Hi, Marjan.

      Many painted mugs have lead on the rim. Tamara's site: has an extensive list of mugs that test positive for lead.

      The Instant Pot, even though it contains lead in the heating element has the LEAST lead of any similar appliance and the lead does not come in contact with the food so I still have and use mine.

  15. Ok I contacted Instant Pot directly this morning and they stated to me that the warning this pertains to is "strictly in the power cord that nothing comes into contact with the food whatsoever"??? This seems very strange to me but that is what their rep stated to me. What are your thoughts on this?

  16. That is odd to me that they said that about the power cord since the power cord testing non-detect for lead! Is IS true that the leaded parts do not come in contact with the food.

    While I would prefer a 100% lead free unit, I feel ok about the Instant Pot and still use mine. It has less lead than any other pressure cooker or slow cooker option I am aware of.


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