By SafBaby Founders Sandra Blum and Samantha Fox Olson
Why Lead in Dinnerware Matters
I’ve heard about lead in dinnerware but was never concerned about it before we had our daughter. I bought our dinnerware at least 10 years ago and just recently decided to research this topic after all the latest toy recalls due to lead. After all, we put hot food on our plates at least twice a day and our kids come into contact with possible lead more likely this way than through toys. Lead and cadmium is still commonly used in dinnerware today. Unless it is stated to be lead and cadmium-free, they most likely contain both. Even though the FDA assures us that the levels in dinnerware purchased in the USA are safe today, I prefer to choose a safer alternative for my family.
Keep reading to find out some astonishing facts that back my decision to choose a safer route. According to the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (CLPPB), some dishes contain enough lead to cause severe lead poisoning and this has significant health impacts. Other dishes with lower levels pose problems as the lead accumulates in the body over time and contributes to your overall lead exposure. This is of importance to us at SafBaby because our babies will be absorbing these toxins for a longer period of time and absorbing them at a much greater rate than us adults.
The FDA states adults absorb 11% of lead reaching the digestive tract, while children absorb between 30-75%!
When lead is inhaled, up to 50% is absorbed. Lead is stored primarily in the bones where it accumulates for decades and displaces calcium. The Hazardous Substances Data Bank states the half-life for lead is around 20 years. This means whatever amount of lead you currently have in your body, in 20 years time you will still have half of that amount. Long-term exposure of cadmium in the air, food and water can lead to kidney disease, lung damage and fragile bones.
Lead and cadmium from dinnerware can leach into your body by:
- eating foods with an acid base
- microwaving your food (The California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch advises against cooking or microwaving in dishes that may contain lead since this speeds up the lead leaching process).
- putting them into a dishwasher (Dishwashers can damage the glazed surface of your dinnerware because of the heat and water intensity).
How to Test for Lead
If you’re unsure if your china, earthenware or stoneware contains high levels of lead or cadium, you can buy testing kits from Leadcheck.com ($18.45 for an eight-swab lead test; $39.95 for eight cadmium swabs). Home testing cannot prove your dishes heavy-metal-free, it can only assure you that levels aren’t dangerously high. Be cautious with dinnerware purchased at flea markets, antique stores and on the Internet or given to you. Glass and stoneware, unless decorated, are generally lead-free. A study published in Science of the Total Environment found that:
- two of 28 patterns of imported dishes released lead in levels higher than the FDA allows,
- 10 patterns released lead that exceeded California Prop 65 limits, and
- one pattern released cadmium exceeding the FDA limit.
To find out more about CA Prop 65, check out: http://oehha.ca.gov/prop65/background/p65plain.html.
The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in the late 80s where they correlated exposure to lead before birth to impaired mental and physical performance during their first two years of life. The interesting part is: the lead levels in the impaired baby’s blood were within acceptable federal guidelines!
The children they studied were from mostly middle and upper income families in Boston and not from old, inner city neighborhoods where the likelihood of lead exposure from lead sources such as paint chips were known to be a factor. Bottom line: our children should be screened for lead exposure on a routine basis and as parents we should do our best to reduce exposure whenever possible. It is our responsibility to make the necessary changes without naively relying on the “government standards” to prevent toxins from being put on our plates, in our toys, on our walls…you get my drift.
After my extensive research and several phone calls to manufacturers (without a guarantee my existing dinnerwares are lead and cadmium-free), I decided to order a new 16-piece dinnerware set from Sengware.com.
Sengware is 100% lead and cadmium-free and has modern colors and designs! Fiesta® Dinnerware by The Homer Laughlin China Co. also does not contain any cadmium and lead is designed and manufactured in the USA.
For an interesting read on lead found in dinnerware and more information, visit Lead Safe America Foundation.