Originally published: 12/3/2016, 7:15 a.m.
This blog-post is in response to a piece by a contributing writer to Snopes. In this piece the author questions the FACT that there is an unsafe level of lead in vintage Pyrex items – and asserts that potential harm that could be caused by these leaded items is “unproven” (implying thereby that these items are safe, based on her false assertion that the items do not contain unsafe levels of lead).
By setting up a straw man argument that testing methodologies were “unspecified”/uncontrolled [a blatant falsehood], the author attempts to dismiss them as mere unsupportable claims traceable to an anecdotal/unscientific source – and by extension, implies that my actually rigorous, standardized/repeatable and extensive testing is some random, isolated “black box”-obtained /unreproduceable/illigitimate non-data that should be ignored or dismissed. It is at best the misguided result of fundamental ignorance and/or a cavelier disregard for minimal journalistic standards for research and fact-checking, and at worst a deliberate calculated attempt to marginalize/de-ligitimize my efforts to educate and inform consumers and parents about these sources of potential lead exposure (with all that would disturbingly imply).
My response to the Snope piece
(linked in the first sentence below):
HAHAHAHA—I guess I have finally arrived: someone has attempted to “discredit me” / “take me down” via “Snopes”!
While I don’t feel it is my responsibility to respond to every denier/naysayer – and I personally hate “reactive activism” (where I spend my time reacting to other people’s ignorance/cynicism/well-intentioned idiocy, instead of helping families), I do have this to say to the woman who wrote the Snopes piece that references me and my advocacy work repeatedly…
I am sorry missy, but you are head-up-your-butt wrong.
Vintage Pyrex does have Lead (a cornucopia of it, in fact!).
I don’t care what company representatives at Pyrex *told* you about when they did or did not use which ingredients in their coatings on which products. Companies are concerned for liability. Companies spin and shuck and jive (and even sometimes outright lie, believe it or not! ;-)). Mind you, they often find creative ways to tell their tales, using true statements—that are simply irrelevant to the question at hand! So far, what I have learned from followers’ reports on their communications with Pyrex (in response to my posts), is that Pyrex’s public statements amount to “We have always complied with all government regulations.”
My response is: of course you have always complied, Pyrex, and of course that is your official stand—that appears reasonable and responsible! But unfortunately, at the time you were manufacturing these dishes that are coated with now-deteriorating lead, there WAS no government regulation, nor ANY standards in usage of lead in coatings on dishware—NONE WHATSOEVER! To date – in fact – there are STILL no U.S. regulations limiting total lead content [content – which is dectectable with XRF testing – vs. merely “leach-tested” (at time of manufacture)] in coatings on dishware. Nada. [With one tiny exception… items unambiguously “made and sold as ‘intended for children’” – like new baby cups.]
Additionally, I can only wildly speculate about whatever this woman (lets call her “Snopes Lady”)’s misguided motivation could possibly be— such that she felt compelled to write such a long and extensive piece without actually doing her homework – but I will chalk that up to another of the world’s great mysteries! I thought Snopes had higher standards. [To my friend Paula – with this in hand, please stop “Snopes-ing” articles I post…please find me more reliable sources!]
Anyone can look on this (my) Facebook page—look hard (no, you’d really have to merely glance actually – through any of the vast majority of my posts): contrary to Ms. LaCapria’s claim [the sophomoric rhetorical trick of beginning with a false premise or assertion, offered as “fact”—in this case, a real doozy of a freakin’ compound false assertion] that “The claims appeared to originate with a single individual (Rubin) testing vintage Pyrex for lead in a non-laboratory environment and using undisclosed methods”—my posts almost ALWAYS clearly state that they were tested using an XRF [a calibrated, state-of-the-art Thermo Scientific Niton XL3T GOLDD+ X-Ray Flourescence Spectrometer hand-held analyzer, used by a certified operator (myself—factory-trained directly by the scientist who originated Thermo-Scientific’s training program) and observing best-practices and protocols for use of this instrument—including multiple, extended-time tests).]
To cover some older posts where I posted in a hurry and may not have specified “tested by XRF” (usually also with the date) I also have posted a few general blanket statements in separate posts about my testing methodologies (additionally many posts have the hashtag #XRFTesting and/or a note in the comments about testing specifics. There are very few exceptions to this.)
To reiterate the testing methodologies I regularly use (and related specifics):
- A non-radioactive source XRF is a highly-accurate SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENT (approximate value with full software package: $40,000), Snopes Lady!
- I am specifically TRAINED AND CERTIFIED to use that instrument.
- An XRF doesn’t require a LAB report nor a LAB environment to be accurate, repeatable and valid (it is, by definition a FIELD TESTING instrument, Snopes Lady!)
- Any responsible, trained operator with access to this or any equivalent-level XRF will be able to easily replicate these measurements for the specific dishes tested.
And if that were not enough for you, many of my posts show lead on vintage Pyrex (in videos and photos) getting a positive detection reading also using REACTIVE AGENT SWAB TESTING [3M LeadCheck swabs] – a much less sensitive, but additional, scientifically-proven, simple tool – one capable of testing for lead in surface coatings down to 600 ppm [vs. the all-the-way-down-to-single-digit-ppm sensitivity & accuracy of the that particular XRF instrument].The point being that in those cases, the lead was present in such ridiculously high levels as to be immediately and easily detected with even an inexpensive, consumer-level test kit intended to test for the super-high levels of lead found in long-banned, lead-based housepaint, for chrisake!
Note: Even trace levels of lead are toxic [e.g., items manufactured as intended for children *today* must have coatings that are below 90 ppm lead.] Even way back in 1978 – residential housepaint manufactured after the 1978 U.S. ban went into effect was required to have levels less than 600 ppm lead. TODAY, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) misguidedly considers paint a hazard in older homes if it is 5000 ppm lead or higher; however advocates are working on encouraging them to tighten that standard to be closer to current standards for consumer goods and new house paint (90 ppm lead.) The vintage Pyrex dishes I have tested using the XRF nearly always come in at 60,000 ppm lead or higher—and many come in much, much higher than that! Even the new-ish Pyrex clear glass measuring cups (in the 10 to 20 year old range) have been found to unsafe levels of lead in the writing (in the 8,000 to 20,000 ppm range – also far above all of the above federal standards that are intended to be protective of children’s health.)
As to Snopes Lady’s concluding assertion that these measurements and their possible implications are somehow “unproven”…
Although I strive whenever possible to employ scientific tools and methodology, I have never claimed to be – nor set out to be – a “scientist”—just a mama advocate attempting to inform fellow parents of a variety of potential lead exposure risks in their children’s environments.
Moreover, in *most* cases, I will not say,” this particular dish is going to poison your child” HOWEVER IF there’s a chance it could – if there’s a real chance it could contribute to the toxicity body burden of a child, isn’t that something we’d want to avoid?
As with “climate change” (the latest euphemism for “bend over and kiss your ass goodbye…!”), the fact that essentially ALL the top scientists in this field consider it axiomatic that the risks associated with ANY level childhood lead exposure are very real and really unacceptable—is apparently considered a subject ripe for debate by many lay folks!
Now, with that said, FYI – regarding perhaps this irresponsible Snopes entry’s most ridiculous mis-stated claim/innuendo—please note: as is completely OBVIOUS to anyone who has actually SEEN my film, it is decidedly NOT “about lead in consumer goods” (have you even watched the TRAILER, Snopes Lady??) and I don’t sensationally run around claiming or implying to parents that their dishes are going to poison them—in most cases, that is; I specifically rigorously steer clear of any inflammatory language…unless there is a very clear and genuine potential danger in the form of particularly high levels of chalking, potentially bio-available toxic lead dust on the surface of the item [as is just the case with certain specific types of vintage Pyrex dishes, especially the common, brightly colored bowls and casseroles made between c. 1950 -1970, for instance].
Snopes Lady – I don’t actually give a flying &%$# about what you have to say; go SNOPE yourself and for all I care eat off of chalking vintage Pyrex every freaking day.
Just because I am a “pioneer” in this virtually uncharted territory (there seems to be no one else bothering to test these products for lead, which doesn’t mean it is not true – but just means I am currently the only one who apparently cares to dare question whether we need lead in our families’ dishware) and just because Pyrex is trying to avoid liability by stating they have “always complied with [historically non-existant] regulatory standards” doesn’t mean this stuff doesn’t have high levels of lead—it indisputably does.
And, Snopes Lady – maybe start doing your homework? (to avoid the liability of being sued for slander yourself?)…
In the end, the vintage Pyrex has lead at unsafe levels by all regulatory standards today adopted for protecting children’s health—and that’s all that matters.
As a mother of lead poisoned children who wants to avoid all potential sources of lead exposure in my home and my children’s lives, I have always had only one single goal: Informing parents so they can in turn make informed decisions to protect their families and especially their children from avoidable exposure to lead—a ubiquitous and incredibly-neurotoxic substance in our environment.
So “Snopes Lady”- please do yourself and the rest of us a favor, and stick to debunking genuinely controversial – or at least disputable – claims (and to subjects on which you have the basis for a credible opinion you know, like actual facts – or at the very least, thorough research)! I think your argument in response to this note might be that you characterized the concern for lead-in-Pyrex as “Unproven” (vs. “False”) – but the above shows your basis of asserting “Unproven” is unfounded (=“False”!)…unless you are one of those people who doesn’t “believe in” science. The only thing that is UNPROVEN is that vintage Pyrex is safe to cook with and use in your home. Medical science is founded on the principal of “first do no harm” – so…given that high lead content can cause brain damage in children, and Pyrex has high lead content, let’s first do no harm and say that it is the safety of having these items in your home which is “Unproven”.
Oh – and stop dissing my friends, too! Creative Green Living is an awesome blog – written by a smart mama who writes honest and helpful things to protect families too!
As my French friends say, “Va te faire foutre”, Snopes Lady – and have a nice day.
Thanks for reading.
Mother of Lead Poisoned Children
…with absolutely nothing to lose.
P.S. Snope Lady, if you would like I would be happy to send you a password-protected link to watch a preview screening of my film, so you can responsibly write about the very real and serious issue of childhood lead poisoning from an informed perspective in the future. Poisoning due to acute (high-level incident) or gradually-accumulated (chronic low-level) exposure from so many sources: inhalation of “invisible” lead – in the contaminated household dust found in millions of older homes, children’s schools and daycares that still contain deteriorating lead-based paint, to consuming lead in contaminated municipal water delivery systems, to regular recalls of contaminated consumer products – including toys, costume jewelry, clothing and accessories, cosmetics, spices and herbal supplements and food items (and those are just the ones that are discovered and acknowledged!) – and yes, many of the antique, vintage and “shabby chic” items that we inherit, hand-down or worst of all, purchase and unwittingly introduce as completely avoidable sources of lead exposure for ourselves and our loved ones)
Thanks Tamara for all you do! Our dinnerware had lead and that’s how our family was poisoned. It’s a shame that snopes is attempting to discredit this as if people ignore this, more kids can be poisoned.
Rachel Winokur says
Tamara, you are amazing!
Tamara: have you published your findings in any journal yet…? I always wondered how much ‘fact checking’ Snopes did.. caught them the other month with a dubious truth … M
Joyce Ravinskas says
I praise you, Tamara for standing up strongly for what is right. I admire your spunk and intelligence to not being intimidated by Snopes, Pyrex, and others. Thank you for all you do. It is greatly appreciated.
You realize “Snopes Lady” probably works for Pyrex, right?
analytical chemist says
I am wondering if Thermo Fisher would publish your findings as an Application note. I am a professional analytical chemist and have not only XRF (EDX-720) but also EDS and ICP-AES (Agilent 5100 SVDV ~$120K) in my lab. I am not going to argue whether lead in ceramic glaze is extractable, that is a personal opinion. FWIW I analyzed water extractions taken from inside and outside from my own pyrex bowl (441 Butterprint in rough shape) by ultra trace ICP-AES and got no detectable amount of lead (NDA < 2 parts per billion) which I am personally satisfied.
PS, I don't work for Pyrex
Thanks for commenting. I don’t expect that lead is likely extractable from the contents of a pyrex bowl (or other vessel). The interior of the milk glass is generally positive for lead at levels below 2,000 ppm lead, and most often even below 1,000 ppm.
I have greater concerns about the lead paint/glaze/coating on the exterior and the bits of that that wears off from normal use and storage (specifically note the intended stacking/nesting of the mixing bowls.) To my knowledge no one is studying the impact of lead that wears off the surface of this sort of thing. There was however a recent study about lead in coatings in glassware – which is quite similar to the Pyrex situation, although I don’t believe Pyrex was studied specifically. The scientists who did this study noted concern for potential exposure from the coatings of the glassware items they tested (especially given the levels found were quite high, as I have also found in my experience), and my concerns for potential exposure from Pyrex would be the same – from the “normal” wear of the exterior coating with regular (daily?/weekly?) use. Here is the link to the article about the glassware study: https://tamararubin.com/2017/11/decorated-glassware/
Amazing that Snopes would try this. Not sure what the motivation is…
As an environmental and safety professional, I say- keep up the good work.
Handheld devices are used in the field daily to save lives.
Clearly you are making a difference in the world!! Thank you!!!
Tamara, would you recommend that I stop using my vintage Pyrex glass teapots? It doesn’t have any writing or color/coating on it. Thanks!
The clear ones are very low-lead (like under 100 ppm) and I would not be concerned about them – although personally I did ditch mine and plan on getting a new clear glass one as soon as I have extra $.
I haven’t trusted Snopes in years, this is just another example of why. Bought and paid for.
Does your XRF test for uranium? Have you tested vintage colored ceramic floor tile and kitchenware (especially orange Fiestaware) for uranium?
Wow! Going to clean out our kitchen cabinets tomorrow. Have 50 yo Corningware, 25+ yo corelleware, . Will help me organize he stuff I have left! What a great eat and great reason to de-clutter! Thanks!
YW! So you glad you found us!