Ashland University Chemistry Professors and Students Find Low Amounts of Lead in Cookware

Ashland University Chemistry Professors and Students Find Low Amounts of Lead in Cookware

12/18/2012 ASHLAND, Ohio – Ashland University students in a Quantitative Analysis Chemistry class working with two Ashland University professors have discovered very low amounts of lead in pots that are being distributed throughout Cameroon.

While some lead was found in the cookware, the levels in the cookware and leaching from the cookware were not high in comparison to U.S. standards.

Dr. Jeff Weidenhamer, professor of chemistry at Ashland University, said that after seeing the results of the lead testing, he is satisfied that the pans are “not a serious source of lead exposure for these families.” However, since no amount of lead exposure is safe, it is an important goal to reduce exposures to lead as much as possible, and that lead not be used in making cookware.

“I was contacted by Perry Gottesfeld of Occupational Knowledge (OK) International several weeks ago about some work they were doing in Cameroon to help remove lead from paint,” Weidenhamer said. “There was concern that workshops in the country are making inexpensive cookware by melting down scrap metal and that this might introduce a source of lead poisoning that could affect entire families.”

Weidenhamer said he and Dr. Rebecca Corbin, associate professor of chemistry at Ashland University, agreed to assist with the analysis of these pots and made arrangements to receive samples that the students in the Quantitative Analysis class have analyzed this fall.

“We saw this project as one that could have had a very significant impact on public health in Cameroon,” Weidenhamer said, in answering why the professors and students took on this project. “And from a couple of conversations I have had with students, it really caught their attention as well.”

Cassandra Nix, a junior toxicology major at Ashland University, stated that “being a part of this analysis was a really important experience because I was able to apply lab skills I’ve learned to real world problems.”

For Heather Bumbalough, a senior dietetics major at Ashland University, working on the Cameroon cookware project broadened her horizons on the nutritional concerns of our world.  “As a Dietetics major,” she adds, “I want people to receive proper nutrition and to do so safely.”

Weidenhamer said that one of the collaborators in Cameroon wrote back to say that the results were a tremendous relief to him and that he was glad to be able to focus their current efforts on the reduction of lead in paints. 

Ashland University, ranked in the top 200 colleges and universities in U.S. News and World Report’s National Universities category for 2013, is a mid-sized, private university conveniently located a short distance from Akron, Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio. Ashland University ( values the individual student and offers a unique educational experience that combines the challenge of strong, applied academic programs with a faculty and staff who build nurturing relationships with their students.