Lead in your dishware can be hazardous to your health. You may not be aware that most dishes sold in department stores and home decorating stores use lead glazes, without labeling them.
Lead is a toxic substance that accumulates in your body, so even small amounts can pose a health hazard over time. According to the California Department of Health Services, lead in tableware can be a serious health threat. Some dishes contain enough lead to cause severe lead poisoning. Even dishes with lower lead levels may contribute to a person’s overall lead exposure.
Think about putting a mug in the microwave or pouring boiling water into it, or putting hot soup in a bowl that contains a lead glaze. You’re asking for trouble.
Since there are many thousands of different makes and kinds of china no one has tested them all. The Environmental Defense Fund says that really dangerous pieces of china are fairly rare, but some types of dishes are more likely to have lead. The EDF says to watch for:
- China handed down from a previous generation or found in antique stores and flea markets.
- Home-made or handcrafted china, either from the U.S. or abroad, unless you are sure the maker used a lead-free glaze.
- Traditional glazed terra cotta ware made in Mexico, unless they are specifically labeled as lead-free.
- Bright colors or decorations inside surfaces that touch the food or drink, including the rim.
- Decorations on top of the glaze instead of beneath it. If you can feel the decoration when you rub your fingers over it, or see brush strokes above the glaze surface.
- Decoration that has begun to wear away or corrode or one that has a dusty or chalky grey residue on the glaze after the piece has been washed. This can be dangerous and not used!
Solution: Don’t store food or drink in questionable china pitchers, bowls, etc. Don’t serve highly acidic food or drink in questionable china. This includes cola-type soft drinks; orange and grapefruit juice; applesauce and apple juice; tomatoes, ketchup and spaghetti sauce; salad dressings with vinegar; tea and coffee. Don’t heat or microwave in questionable china. Heat can speed up the lead-leaching process.
Many experts believe that white china is less likely to have lead problems than highly decorated, multi-colored china. If you are concerned, the only way to be certain is to use glass dishes without decoration, buy dishes labeled “lead-free”, or do a home lead test on your existing dishes. Simple test kits, costing approximately $13-$30 apiece, are available in most hardware and paint stores.
There are safe alternatives to everything you’re using now. I show you easy ways to make important changes in every room in your house in my book Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet…One Room at a Time.
Beth Greer, Super Natural Mom™, is the bestselling author of Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet…One Room at a Time as well as a radio talk show host and impassioned champion of toxin-free living who busts open the myth that our homes are safe havens. Beth is a contributing blogger for The Washington Times Communities and NaturallySavvy.com. Follow Beth on Twitter. Become a fan on Facebook.