Here are some common concerns and answers regarding Lead in tableware (Click on the questions to expand for more information):

1. Should I be Freaking Out About Lead in My Dishes?

So, here’s the deal: lead is a seriously bad dude. It can mess with anyone, no matter how old you are. But watch out, because it’s particularly nasty for kids, pregnant ladies, and those precious little babies on the way. The scary thing is, even tiny amounts of lead can build up in your body and cause major health problems down the line. Now, here’s the scoop: some ceramic dishes have this sneaky lead hiding in the glazes or fancy decorations on the surface. And guess what? That lead can seep into your food and drinks when you use those dishes for cooking, storing, or serving. Yikes, right?

2. Is Tableware a Major Source of Lead Exposure?

Tableware generally doesn’t pose a big risk of lead exposure for most people. The main concern lies with other sources like lead-based paint or contaminated soil, which are more likely to be problematic. However, there are cases where lead in tableware can be a serious health issue. Some dishes contain high levels of lead that can lead to severe poisoning. Even dishes with lower lead levels can contribute to overall lead exposure. This guide addresses common questions about when and how lead in tableware may be a health risk, who is most vulnerable, and how to minimize exposure.

3. How Does Lead Get into Your Body from Dishes?

Lead can seep out or “leach” from the glaze or decorations on the surface of the dish and contaminate the food or drink it holds. When you consume the food, the lead enters your body. The extent of lead leaching depends on factors such as the amount of lead present in the dish, the type of glaze used, how the dish is used, the type of food being stored or served, and the duration of food contact with the dish.

4. What is Proposition 65?

Proposition 65 is a law in California that makes businesses give warnings when they expose the public to chemicals that can cause cancer, birth defects, or harm to reproduction. Lead is one of the chemicals covered by this law. If tableware has lead levels below the Proposition 65 standards, it is considered safe to use. Tableware that has lead levels higher than the Proposition 65 standards can still be sold, but only if it comes with a written warning. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also regulates the sale of tableware with lead. Tableware that exceeds FDA levels cannot be legally sold in the U.S. For more detailed information about the regulations on lead in tableware, please check out the Lead in Tableware Resource List page.

5. How Can I Find Out If My Dishes are Safe?

Most of the dishes we commonly use are safe and don’t pose a lead risk. However, if the amount of lead that can leach into your food from your dishes is higher than the levels set by Proposition 65, there may be a potential health concern.

To determine if your dishes meet Proposition 65 standards for lead, you can follow these steps:

Check with the store where you purchased the dishes. Ask the salesperson if the dishes meet Proposition 65 standards. If they don’t have the information, request to speak with their customer service department, tableware buyer, or quality control manager.

Contact the manufacturer of the dishes. The retail store should be able to provide you with the contact information for the manufacturer. Alternatively, many manufacturers in US & Canada have toll-free “800” numbers for customer service. If you need assistance finding their contact details, you can call directory assistance at (800) 555-1212.

By reaching out to the store or the manufacturer, you can get the necessary information to determine if your dishes comply with Proposition 65 standards for lead.

6. Is it Safe to Use Leaded Crystal?

Using leaded crystal occasionally won’t expose you to significant amounts of lead, unless you’ve stored liquids in a leaded crystal container. However, it’s important to note that children should never eat or drink from leaded crystalware. It’s also advisable not to store food or alcohol in leaded crystal decanters or containers. The longer food or drink stays in contact with crystalware, the higher the likelihood of lead leaching into it. Moreover, the longer the duration, the greater the amount of lead that may leach into the food or drink.

7. Should I Still Use My Dishes if They Don’t Meet Proposition 65 Standards?

Well, that’s a personal decision you have to make. Dishes with higher lead levels than what Proposition 65 allows might expose you and your family to small amounts of lead over time. It’s generally recommended to minimize lead exposure whenever possible.

8. How Can I Reduce the Chances of My Dishes Exposing Me to Lead?

The safest bet is to avoid using tableware that you’re uncertain about with food or drinks. This is especially important for dishes used by children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers. Here are some precautions to follow:

Don’t heat food in dishes that contain or might contain lead. Heating speeds up the leaching of lead into the food.

Avoid storing foods in dishes that contain or might contain lead. The longer the food sits in contact with a dish that leaches lead, the more lead can be absorbed.

Stay away from using dishes that contain or might contain lead with highly acidic foods or drinks. Acidic foods and drinks draw out lead from dishes faster. Examples of acidic foods include citrus fruits, apples, tomatoes, soy sauce, and salad dressings. Acidic beverages include fruit juices, sodas (especially colas), alcoholic drinks, coffee, and tea. Non-acidic foods like rice or potatoes, as well as non-acidic drinks like water and milk, pose less risk.

If you’re unsure whether a dish contains lead, it’s best not to use it in your daily routine. Combining any of the first three factors mentioned can increase the risk of lead exposure. For instance, storing spaghetti with tomato sauce in a lead-containing ceramic dish and then microwaving it in the same dish.

9. What Happens If I Wash Leaded Dishes in the Dishwasher?

Using a dishwasher can actually damage the glazed surface of dishes that contain lead, making them more likely to leach lead into food the next time you use them. There’s also a chance that lead can contaminate other dishes in the dishwasher.

10. Does Lead Leach Only If There are Cracks or Chips in the Surface?

No, the leaching process can occur even if the surface isn’t cracked or worn. However, if there are chips, cracks, or signs of wear, the exposure to lead may be greater.

11. Will the Level of Lead Exposure From My Dishes Increase or Decrease Over Time?

It’s not a one-size-fits-all answer. In some cases, as dishes age, they may leach more lead into food or drinks.

12. Why is Lead Still Used in Ceramic Dishes?

Well, lead has been a popular choice in ceramicware for a while now. It’s used in glazes and decorations because it creates a smooth, glassy finish that allows vibrant colors and fancy patterns to shine through. It also adds strength to the dishes and helps keep moisture out. In decorations, lead is often linked to those rich and intense colors we love.

13. So, What’s the Deal with Lead-Free and Lead-Safe?

Lead-Free tableware is exactly what it sounds like—no lead whatsoever. It’s totally free of the stuff.

On the other hand, Lead-Safe tableware does contain some lead, but the good news is that the amount of lead that can make its way into your food doesn’t exceed the standards set by California’s Proposition 65. Either there’s only a tiny bit of lead in the tableware, or only a tiny fraction of that lead actually ends up in your food when you use it.