Rust (as in iron oxide)

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Short answer:

iron oxide itself is not harmful
but it happens most in moist places, which also breeds things that are harmful

For example, a a rusty water cooker is no risk, because it's purely rust, and the frequent boiling will kill most anything.

(An iron / cast iron pan will sometimes be doing chemistry, which can matter, but barely so if you clean it well and/or use it frequently. )

Rusty nails and surfaces can be bad, but this is because places that collect rust are typically also dirty and moist, which is a good place for bacteria to grow to large numbers.

Bacterial spores such as those causing tetanus will actually take better on rough surfaces with dirt and moisture around (...which happens to include rusty nails) (verify)

So stepping on a rusty nail in an old dirty moist run-down industrial building is a little riskier (and perhaps more likely) than stepping on a rusty nail in your room.

A wound bleeding will will wash things away - that's part of the point. That said, e.g. tetanus is easier to prevent than to cure. At least try to catch it early - stiffness of the jaw and neck are early indicators.

Some details:

  • cooking in cast iron
you won't get much iron out of an iron / cast iron pan unless you cook something acidic in it
note that treating your iron pan carefully (oiling it before and after) helps.
iron itself is insoluble in water -- but with acid around, it will react. Which is why (cast) iron pan instructions tend to mention tomatoes and perhaps applesauce
if you cook spaghetti every day, you may want to use another pan -- but even the amount of iron that releases seems to be within safe levels(verify)
  • Diet:
You need a little iron, for your blood to carry oxygen. A deficit is anemia
an iron pan can work as an additive(verify) - but you are probably getting enough already, from eggs, beans, some fruit, some grains, some fish.
your body does excrete excess iron, but only slowly, so avoid structurally getting too much iron
rather more iron in your diet usually causes nothing worse than fatigue, headaches, possibly anorexia or such.

See also: