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Lead in Crystal and Dinnerware - is it safe?

California proposition 65 was passed in 1986. The proposition requires posting a warning on certain patterns of tableware and crystal that may exposed one to lead, a chemical known to the state of California to cause birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Lead in crystal:
For thousands of years glass was made from silica-sand, potash and limestone. George Ravenscroft successfully added lead oxide to glass in 1674. This made the glass softer and easier to cut. It also added to the sparkle by creating a higher index of light refraction than normal glass. To be considered Lead Crystal it must typically contain between 24-32% lead oxides.

The risk of lead release is lower if the crystal ware is only used over the course of a meal. According to Health Canada "Tests show that the amount of lead in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages when consumed from a crystal glass during a meal is usually well below 0.2 parts per million, the maximum lead concentration allowed in food and beverages in Canada". The United States Environmental Protection Agency regulations limit lead in drinking water to 15 micrograms per liter.

Lead in dinnerware:
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(CDC) reports that there have been cases of lead poisoning stemming from the use of stoneware and terra cotta. Glazing is the leading cause of lead in dishes. This usually occurs when the glazing is applied to decorate the dishes. These cases most often occur in china or stoneware that are hand crafted, very old heirlooms, decorated dinnerware and improperly applied glazes.

According to Environmental defense, "If you are buying new dishes, there is no reason to run any risk at all. Dishes with lead-free glazes and decorations are being made today by many companies, and many more are moving in that direction. Also, many patterns are so well made that they meet the strict California standards.”

Ask Before You Buy
Call us and ask if the dishes you want are lead-free or have been tested for lead leaching. If we can’t get you an immediate answer, we ask the manufacturer. We will let you know which manufactures guarantee that they meet the California warning standards -- in other words, can it be sold in California without a warning. This is particularly important if you are buying china you hope to use every day, or over a lifetime. If the china has not been tested for lead leaching by the company, there is no reason for you to take an unknown risk.

Contact the federal Food and Drug Administration if you are considering buying china and are not from California. They have a helpful new information service. U.S. FDA and the Chinese government are working together to certify Chinese tableware manufacturers whose products meet U.S. federal lead standards go to the Food and Drug Administration website for more information.

What Can You Be Sure Of?
Glass plates, cups, mugs, etc. have no glaze on them. Glass without painted or decal-type decorations on their surface, are reliably lead-free. (This is not true of leaded crystal, which is heavy and expensive and almost never used for ordinary plates, cups and mugs.)

Stoneware dishes like Denby, Johnson Brothers and Emeril- are fairly heavy and are normally coated with a material that contains no lead. If they are decorated on the surface they may contain lead.

Lead-free china like Vera Wang, Barbara Barry and most Wedgwood patterns-- look just like other china but is made with lead-free glazes and pigments. Very low-lead china meets the strict California warning standards. The Shopper's Guide lists many brands and patterns that do so.

Foods and Beverages:
Beverages and foods that are acidic such as pickles, fruit juices, soft drinks, wine and port increase the amount of lead released. Less acidic foods and beverages, such as cheese, nuts, milk, scotch and vodka will release less lead.

  • Here is a list of steps you can take to safely use crystal and dinnerware containing lead:
  • Only use crystal when serving.
  • Do not store food or beverages in containers made with lead.
  • Soak your new crystal in vinegar for 24 hours and rinse before using.
  • Wash your crystal and dinnerware by hand using a mild non abrasive detergent to prevent lead from being released.
  • Discard dishes that are cracked or show signs of having the glaze or decorations wearing off.
  • Use heirloom china for display only.
  • If the glaze has been improperly made or applied discard the item.

 

Crystallia specializes in fine china dinnerware and crystal.


 
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