The Lenox dish pictured above came in with the following readings when tested with an XRF instrument:
- Lead (Pb): 61,513 ppm
- Arsenic (As): 9,214 ppm
The amount of lead that is considered unsafe in an item intended for use by children is anything 90 parts per million (ppm) or higher in the paint, glaze or coating. Most newly manufactured dishware is not regulated for XRF detectable amounts of Lead, with the exception being newly manufactured dishware that is expressly made and sold with the intention of being used by children.
Historically dishware manufacturers have gotten away with making this sort of toxic product by claiming either that their products are not made for use by children or by (in the case of vintage or antique products) claiming that they followed all applicable regulations at the time of manufacture. Loosely translated this usually means there was no relevant regulation around XRF detectable levels of toxicants at the time of manufacture OR that the applicable regulations at that time were not enforced OR that the standards were lax and not protective of human health.
The modern leach testing regulatory standard for determining if dishware is Lead-safe is also not a reliable standard (especially for daily use functional food-use ceramics) and you can read more about that concern by clicking on this link.
That said, big companies like Lenox seem to be working towards removing Lead and other toxicants from their products (as newer products from them tend to consistently have less Lead than older ones.)
If I owned vintage high-Lead pieces from a prominent china company still in operation today (like Lenox), I would consider contacting them and asking them for a refund for a full set of dishes at the current value of a new set of dishes OR I would ask them to replace my set with a new Lead-free set.
If you feel compelled to hold on to a high-Lead vintage dishware piece (for sentimental reasons) I encourage people to consider getting rid of most of the set and taking one piece (as an example) to put in a shadow box behind glass. With that shadow box put in a poem or story of why the piece has sentimental value to your family and perhaps include a few other pieces of memorabilia from the same era. On the BACK of the shadow box (in highly visible bold print!) mark that the dish is high Lead and should not EVER be used for food-use purposes. If you have many children or grandchildren and many pieces of china you could make a similar shadow box for each child.
To make a contribution in support of my independent consumer goods testing and lead poisoning prevention advocacy work, click here.
Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing my pots.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.