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GasOne Butane Lead Warning


judec
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I've been using GasOne butane with the Iwatani torch for a while now when I noticed the lead warning on the canister:

This product contains chemicals, Including lead, known (to the state of California) to cause cancer and birth defects or other reproductive harm. Wash hands after handling.

I'm no hypochondriac, but I have to admit that this got me a bit worried since the flame is always in direct contact with food when I use it.

Does heat render lead harmless? Are the Iwatani brand canisters lead-free? Does all butane contain lead?

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I'm not sure that the butane has lead contaminants in it; the way the California law works, that warning may apply to the butane canister and not the butane itself. I can't think of a reason for butane to contain lead, whereas steel can have lead added to improve its properties for some applications. I looked at a couple of Material Safety Data Sheets for butane and did not find lead listed as a trace contaminant. I admit that may mean I didn't look hard enough.

Suppose there is lead present in the butane. If it's in elemental form it'll be solid in the canister, and probably stay there - or else get spit out via the nozzle without igniting. You asked whether heat does something to lead. Basically, it can make it change from solid to liquid to gas. Lead melts at 327C / 621 F and doesn't turn to a gas until it gets up to 1749C / 3180F. Your canister is at room temperature and the released gas doesn't start getting hot until it ignites in the outside world (hopefully in the torch flame!). In turn, that flame may be getting hot enough to melt lead - I'd guess that it does - but it can't be turning the lead to gas without incinerating your food in the process. I think it's very unlikely that you'll get lead contamination of your food via that mechanism, even if there's lead present in the butane.

The paragraph above describes what would happen to elemental lead inside the canister. I haven't been able to find a listing of lead compounds that might be gaseous and present in butane. Again, that may mean I haven't looked hard enough.

With all due respect to California's interest in environmental health and safety, I think they went overboard with the current system of warnings they have in place. As Baselerd notes above, pretty much everything has a warning of some sort to satisfy the state's regulation. In my opinion it dilutes the utility of the warning system, a la The Boy Who Cried Wolf.

In the interests of full disclosure: I have investigated and thought on this topic for, oh, about an hour. There may be someone who works or has worked in the field with better information; if so, I hope he or she chimes in.

Nancy Smith, aka "Smithy"
HosteG Forumsnsmith@egstaff.org

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No mention of lead in the Iwatani MSDS - I assume that this is the puncture seal of the canister. So, if you live in Californis, do not eat more than 11 canisters per month or you might become retarded.

....."retarded". ?? You just crawl out from the cave?

No harm done; if it's not being used as an insult (which it wasn't), it's still widely regarded as a legitimate description of someone whose intellectual development is delayed:

retarded |riˈtärdid|

adjective

less advanced in mental, physical, or social development than is usual for one's age.

retard

verb |riˈtärd| [ with obj. ]

delay or hold back in terms of progress, development, or accomplishment: his progress was retarded by his limp.

noun |ˈrēˌtärd| offensive

a mentally handicapped person (often used as a general term of abuse).

. . . .

ORIGIN late 15th cent.: from French retarder, from Latin retardare, from re- ‘back’ + tardusslow.’

(New Oxford American Dictionary)

I think Smithy nailed it, insofar as the lead goes. The advice about washing your hands suggests that the lead may be in/on the canister, in which case, I'm not so sure it could actually contaminate the contents. Mostly, the warning sounds like the sort of boilerplate companies use to protect themselves legally (I'd wash my hands after handling the canister, regardless).

Michaela, aka "Mjx"
Manager, eG Forums
mscioscia@egstaff.org

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