Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Like the swallows return every year to San Juan Capistrano, there's been another gasket "debate" regarding the safety of using Rutland gaskets on a ceramic charcoal cooker. (Actually, we know that the swallows no longer return to San Juan Capistrano, but now go to a golf resort about 50 miles away, but we digress.....) We have written articles on the safety of the Rutland gasket, the Cotronics ceramic gasket, and the Nomex gasket used by Big Green Egg. We had planned to write an overview article to compare the information about all three in a summary format, so maybe this Whizlog entry will form the framework of that article get us off our behinds.

Why the debate? Ah, there's a story. There have been claims made by various parties in the past that:
  1. The Rutland gasket will harm unborn fetuses.
  2. Rutland says it is unsafe to use their products around food.
  3. The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Rutland's product contains information showing it is dangerous to use around food.
  4. The MSDS for fiberglass from Corning contains information showing it is dangerous to use around food.
Actually, none of the above statements are true. Let's address them one by one:

The Rutland gasket will harm unborn fetuses. This myth got started because an employee of Big Green Egg made this statement to some of their customers, claiming that Rutland had told them that their product could harm unborn fetuses. First of all, as you can see in the letter from Rutland, Rutland never made any such statement to Big Green Egg. Secondly, we had a phone conversation with this employee who said that they had never been told this explicitly by Rutland, but that Rutland had made it sound like using their product around food was very dangerous and maybe it could do something bad like harm unborn fetuses. However, again, if you view the letter from Rutland, they say they have never made this statement.

Rutland says it is unsafe to use their product around food. If you read what Rutland says, they say that they have no safety data. If they have no safety data, then they will not be able to make a statement that it is safe to use their product around food. However, this is quite a different matter than saying it is unsafe. There is no indication whatsoever in the letter that Rutland says it is unsafe to use their product around food.

The MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) for Rutland's product contains information showing it is dangerous to use around food. You can read the Rutland MSDS and you will find nothing in it saying it is dangerous to use their product around food. The MSDS is the place where they would document any dangers associated with using their product and there are no such warnings regarding its use around food. (It is also interesting to note that the Technical Data Sheet for Rutland's gasket only says "Not recommended to come in contact with food" as opposed to saying it is dangerous to use it AROUND food.)

The MSDS for fiberglass from Corning contains information showing it is dangerous to use around food. Again, you can read the Corning MSDS for fiberglass and you will find nothing other than a warning about ingesting a large enough quantity to cause physical blockage of the intestines. The Rutland gasket also contains graphite. You can read the details on our web page about the Rutland gasket, but the bottom line is that graphite contains trace amounts of silica, and there has to be prolonged exposure (20-30 years) to high levels of the silica to cause problems.

So, we need to get cracking on that overview article, but for now we hope that you will try to ignore the hysteria and just simply go read the data and make up your own mind regarding the use of any of the three most popular gasket materials used on ceramic charcoal cookers. One place you can find this data is on our Information Central web page. Look for the section on gaskets and you will find all the data we have compiled so far. We think you will find that it is probably safe to use any one of these three materials.

-TNW

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