Today, dinnerware with traces of lead, cadmium and other toxins are legally allowed to be sold in the USA. Although the EPA and other health experts conclude that there is no safe amount of lead consumption (insert head scratch emoji), it wasn’t until the 1970’s that the FDA began testing dinnerware for safety (gasp!) which is one reason it is especially important to discontinue the use of vintage dinnerware.
Below are a few brands you should definitely toss!
Continue reading to learn how to tell if your dinnerware is toxin-free as well as precautions you can take to keep your family safe.
Older Fiestaware contains extremely high, unsafe amounts of lead and some older Fiestaware even contains uranium! According to Tamara Rubin, Lead Safe Mama and Lead Advocate, not all of the new Fiesta pieces marked as “Lead Free” have been 100% lead-free. Some have tested positive for very low levels of lead, cadmium and arsenic. Read more on Tamara’s findings here.
Older Corelle has been found to contain high amounts of lead, cadmium and other heavy metals – just as many vintage brands. The company advises consumers to discontinue the use of older dinnerware Corelle has advised against using their older (pre-2005) dinnerware due toxin concerns (learn more here). Additionally, according to the LeadSafeMama website, some newer Corelle patterns have been found to have concerning cadmium leverls in the decorative pattern. And their mugs – made from stoneware in China – are not always lead-free.
Older Tupperware has been found to be contaminated with lead, cadmium, arsenic and other toxins linked to infertility and cancer, plus neurological and developmental disorders. In general, I avoid eating and drinking from plastic dinnerware due to health concerns related to the array of chemicals found in plastics. Plus, plastic takes a huge toll on our environment!
Vintage Pyrex bowls have VERY high amounts of lead, cadmium, arsenic and other heavy metals too. When tested with an XRF device in consumer goods mode, nearly all vintage Pyrex has contained extremely toxic amounts of heavy metals. Additionally, many bowls like the image above, now have chipping paint from years of use which means these chemicals are coming into contact with your food and you can bet you’ve ingested them too.
Other Unsafe Dinnerware
In general, be wary of glazes and paints used to decorate traditional pottery and ceramics from Mexico, China and other countries. These items may (and often do) contain lead, cadmium, and other toxins in their paints and glazes.
How do I know if my dinnerware contains heavy metals?
XRF testing is an excellent way to find out exactly what heavy metals your dinnerware contains. With that being said, it can be expensive and if you are using an XRF device, you must be sure you’ve been properly trained on how to use it. Tamara Rubin, Lead Safe Mama is an environmental activist and lead expert who tests goods for families throughout the country using an XRF device. Tamara published many of her findings on her website including the results of a variety of dinnerware options. Click here to see if your dishes have been tested!
3M LeadCheck Swabs.
Some vintage items will test positive for lead with a simple “swab test” using 3M LeadCheck swabs. This method is not nearly as precise as an XRF test or lab test, but it is an easy way for consumers to test bio-available amounts of lead in their household items – I always have 3M swabs on hand! Buy some from Amazon here!
The 3M LeadCheck swabs are able to detect lead above 600 parts-per-million (ppm) by basically getting a bit of the dust or paint to rub off onto the test. Then, if over 600 ppm of lead is present, the swab will turn pink or red. However, it is important to note that just because a swab does not turn pink or red, does NOT mean there lead is not present. Often items will not swab positive, but when tested with an XRF device in consumer goods mode, these items contain much higher concentrations well above 600 ppm of lead. Therefore, do not assume your household dinnerware is safe if the 3M LeadCheck swab remains neutral.
Contact the manufacturer.
Reach out to the manufacturer and inquire about what materials were used in the production process. Ask if ANY lead, cadmium, arsenic or other heavy metals are present in the glaze, paint, or final product. You can also ask them to provide a Certificate of Analysis (COA report) which will show an analysis of the chemical makeup of a product.
Purchase safe dinner options for your family.
Without testing your dinnerware, there isn’t a tried and true way to determine if your dinnerware contains toxins. If you are unsure, I’d recommend purchasing dinnerware that you know is safe for your family which is what I originally did. Check out my recent post on Safe Dinnerware or visit my Amazon storefront for my favorite non-toxic products.
Precautions to Take If You Choose To Keep Your Dinnerware …
I HIGHLY recommend you toss any cookware that contains or may contain harmful chemicals. The potential risks are simply not worth it. With that being said, I understand not everyone is going to toss their aunt’s beloved China. So… if you do choose to keep your dinnerware, I would HIGHLY advise you to take the following precautions:
- Consider purchasing new, safe dinnerware for your baby and children.
- If you are pregnant, consider switching to safe dinnerware due to the damage these heavy metals and chemicals can have on your developing fetus.
- Store leaded crystal and vintage items behind enclosed glass and out of a child’s reach.
- Avoid microwaving.
- Avoid storing hot or acid foods/beverages.
- Avoid the dishwasher and hand-wash only.
- Avoid using dinnerware that is scratched, pitted, or cracked.
- Avoid stacking toxic dishes due to the friction causing the creation of lead dust.
Something to ponder…
Newly manufactured items “intended for use by children” containing 90 ppm of lead or higher in the finish, paint, or coating AND items containing 100 ppm of lead or higher in the substrate (underlying layers) is considered unsafe (and illegal). The problem with dinnerware is, somehow, these items are technically not “intended for use by children” and can contain unsafe levels of lead and other heavy metals (insert head scratching emoji here again!!). In my opinion, it’s better to be safe than sorry!
Now, that we’ve covered four brands of vintage dinnerware you should definitely avoid, check out some of the safest, non-toxic dinnerware options for your family! And don’t forget to check out my post on toxins in dinnerware.
Additional Reading Resources:
- “Lead Testing My Stuff with Tamara Rubin, Lead Safe Mama” (Learn more about lead testing my items)
- Public Health Impact of Plastic (NCBI Article)
- Dangerous Dinnerware – (An interesting Washington Post article from 1986!)
- Lead Paint Trial: Did Industry Promote Product Knowing Of Its Toxic Dangers?
Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links which does not cost you anything. I am not a medical professional and the information on this website is for informational purposes only. As always, check with your healthcare provider before starting any medical treatment. This blog has not been evaluated by the FDA. Any products or methods mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or ailment.
Full Disclosure and Disclaimer here.