Altering medical records, now a Steve H specialty

Steve H has decided that galvanized cookwear is perfectly OK, and all the people who are warning against it are idiots.

Of course, he’s absolutely correct, we are all fools. That’s why every major manufacturer of cookware uses galvanizing to protect their cookware. I have the whole Lodge Galvanized Cast Iron set, how about you?

Zinc is not a disaster. You can withstand some exposure and not be harmed. The body needs Zinc, in fact. Problem is, getting it the wrong way, or getting too much.

But here’s the fun part.

In 82, while I was doing my machinist’s apprenticeship, I was cutting some plate for a hatch. I was burning heavy stainless, so theoretically there wasn’t any reason to wear breathing protection, but there was a piece of galv diamondplate under what I was cutting. I was using Airarc, which was the accepted method for cutting heavy stainless at the time. Airarc uses a carbon electrode to melt the steel, and a high pressure jet of air to blow the melted metal away (Stainless doesn’t burn like carbon steel does)

Anyway, the by-product of this process is a lot of molten metal. Which fell on the galv plate below. And melted/vaporized some of the galv off the plate. Not a lot, just some. I was standing in the area for a long time, and eventually, I started to feel bad. Not horrible, but not “right”. Kinda “hangover” bad

‘Not right” became “horrible” a couple hours therafter. I ended up in the Inland clinic ambulance, on my way to St Catherine’s hospital in East Chicago.

I was curled up into a fetal position and vomiting, I couldn’t catch my breath, and i was gasping for air. Thankfully, before I even GOT to the hospital the symptoms had begun to ease- but it was pretty horrible, and I really thought I was going to die.

Now, I had gotten a lot of exposure because the fumes were going right up under the welding helmet. Most people who get “metal fume” fever have much milder symptoms, and they go away after a short time. Mine lasted about a day and a half. During a lot of which I prayed to die.

But none of this happened, of course, becuase Steve says it didn’t. I told him I had had metal fume fever, and his response was:

No, you haven’t. You may have inhaled zinc fumes, but nobody gets zinc poisoning from eating pigs cooked on zinc poles. And zinc exposure isn’t cumulative, and all sorts of barbecue items are galvanized, and it’s not a problem, and it never will be.

So apparently he has access to my medical records, and has purged this incident from my medical history.

Having dealt with this personally, I caution people against using certain metals for cooking. I’m a big fan of stainless and cast iron. I don’t mind aluminum as long as it’s coated with teflon. I dislike using bare aluminum but for certain things I think it’s fine. I am careful about how much I use it.

Zinc, on the other hand, is a definite no-no.

From a manufacturer of cooking equipment:

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel should never be used for cookware or food storage since this may lead to zinc poisoning (aka heavy metal poisoning). Exposure to high levels of zinc can cause lethargy, dizziness, nausea, fever, diarrhea, irritability, muscular stiffness and pain, loss of appetite, and reversible pancreatic and neurological damage. Pot stands and stoves constructed from galvanized steel can cause metal fume fever when heated. This is caused by the inhalation of zinc oxide fumes or dust produced when galvanized steel is welded or burned. The signs and symptoms can be vague (shaking chills, fever, body aches, headache, and fatigue) and are similar to those of the flu or a viral illness. Onset of symptoms often occur after well after exposure (3-10 hours) and makes the connection between using your stove and sickness less obvious than one would think. Symptoms usually resolve after 48 hours if you quit cooking with galvanized steel.
Metal Fume Fever has been linked with occupational asthma and is a pretty noxious illness.

From a welding/manufacturing point of view: (from Jim “PawPaw” Wilson)

Well folks. This is a hell of a way to do a demo. I did something stupid that I knew better than to do, thinking I was tougher than a little smoke. Well, I miscalculated and now I am dead.

My friends will have to finish this for me. . .

Sheri, I love you. Please forgive me.

From the USDA:“Don’t smoke foods in makeshift containers such as galvanized steel cans or other materials not intended for cooking. Chemical residue contamination can result. ”

From the US Department of Labor OSHA guidelines

The inhalation of zinc oxide at the PEL concentration for 2 hours by naïve subjects was reported to trigger an inflammatory response involving the release of cytokines thought to mediate the symptoms of metal fume fever (elevated body temperature, myalgia, cough, fatigue) that peaked about 9 hours after exposure. Prior zinc oxide exposure resulted in the development of some tolerance (desensitization) to these effects.

Which, of course, means the effects are cumulative. The more you get, the less sensitive you are, and you can inhale a greater and greater dose, which can be more harmful.
But the USDA, OSHA< all those people are wrong, wrong wrong. because Steve is, of course, right.

You should have known you were wrong from the start; imagine the lawsuits we’d be seeing if zinc was a cumulative poison.

Cumulative effects. Different thing. But of courese, I’m wrong. Actually, there are a LOT of lawsuits about welding and zinc fumes. There arent’ lawsuits about cooking and zinc fumes, because not one manufacturer of BBQ equipment that I know of, specifically puts galvanized steel or zinc near a source of high heat. Charcoal can pretty easily reach temps of 1000 degrees, wiht the correct draft, and of course Zinc burns off around 780 degrees. yes, I get that Steve is not talking about putting the galvanized in contact with the coals. Yes, I understand that there is no intention of mixing the two.

If zinc built up in the blood or tissues, one pill would be worse than a hundred barbecues.

Yep, because taking a pill carefully developed by a pharmaceutical company works EXACTLY the way inhaling randomly vaporized zinc fumes works. Every time. Again, note, cumulative effects. Not cumulative toxicity.

Whatever. IN any case, Steve goes on to say

Your batting average is really good; I don’t know why you keep beating this dead horse

Oh, it could be because I’d hate to see anyone get sick. Having been through this myself, and having seen what a remarkably small amount of exposure is required to get sick, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. And there are so many other products available that do the job equally well, there’s no reason to use galvanized.

As I said, many times, it’s his lungs. That won’t be hurt at all. because his supreme intellect will protect him from exposure. I just got sick because I’m so much stupider than Steve.

When I got back from the hospital, I went and looked at the spot where I was cutting the stainless. The melt and slag pile was about 3″ in diameter, and had burned the galv off an area about a foot circle. That’s how much it took to make me violently ill. Yeah, I’ve recovered. Has there been permant damage to my lungs as a result? I certainly hope not. But with welding- as with cooking. As with anything you do- it’s so simple to mitigate exposure to danger, it’s foolish not to do so. Stainless is more expensive, but perfectly safe. Mild steel is available everywhere, and also perfectly safe. You might get by with building cooking equipment out of galvanized, but why take chances if you don’t have to.