Friday, March 28, 2008

Toxic Free Dishes - Part 1

Recently my Aunt brought up the topic of toxic lead in dishes. She's a big advocate for creating a healthy home and decided to purchase new "lead-free" dishes. To her disappointment, the only dishes she found that contained zero lead were from Fiesta Ware, which only come in super vibrant solid colors. However, she said she'd rather choose semi-attractive toxic free dishes over beautiful contaminated ones. I decided to explore this topic a little further. What dishes fall into the toxic lead category? How dangerous is lead? And better yet, where can you find lead free dishes that are also aesthetically pleasing? Here's what I found:

Lead is a naturally occurring bluish-gray metal found in small amounts in the earth's crust. Lead poisoning is the leading environmentally induced illness in children. At greatest risk are children under the age of six because they are undergoing rapid neurological and physical development. Lead and cadmium are still used in some ceramic dishes and while levels are regulated by the FDA and, more strictly, by California, you can't be assured your tableware is lead- and cadmium-free even if it meets California's Proposition 65 standards. However, most tableware doesn't pose a serious health risk.

Choose glass, stoneware, or ceramic dishware. Ceramic dishware labeled as meeting California’s Proposition 65 requirements leach less lead than those approved by the FDA and are preferable. Plain white dishes rarely contain lead.

Avoid old, handmade, or imported ceramic dishware, which may leach more lead than permitted by the FDA. Any ceramic items that show chalky gray residue after washing should not be used, and leaded crystalware should also be avoided. Also avoid tableware that's colorfully glazed on the surfaces that touch food—an external glaze on, say, a pitcher shouldn't be a problem. Avoid decorations over glazes, as they're more likely to rub off than those underneath. Heavy metals are more likely to leach when ceramics are heated, and when acidic food or drink is what's being stored.

Click here to order home test kits by mail (scroll down to the very bottom of the page). For more information visit the green guide or


  1. great information! i also looked into this issue a few months back & gave up because there was so little info out there. but, you have found so much & offered some great options for lead-free dishes. is all porcelain lead-free?


  2. AnonymousJune 11, 2008

    Thanks for the info. The Fiesta Dinnerware that you mention is lead-free and wonderful. It is available in white and other more muted colors. I bought dishes from They are a great company with friendly service. When one of my plates arrived broken, they replaced it at their cost!


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