Introduction to Tamara (for those new to the site!)
Tamara Rubin lives in Portland, Oregon and is a child health advocate, author, documentary filmmaker, and mother of four sons. Her young men are now 24, 18, 15, and 12. She has won multiple national awards for her Lead-poisoning prevention advocacy work (including two from U.S. government agencies). As of November 15, 2020, she has had more than 1.5 million unique individual readers visit her blog in the past 12 months (with over 3.5 million page views!) – from more than 200 countries (per Google Analytics) around the world!
It is with the help, support, and participation of these readers that she conducts and reports on independent testing of consumer goods for toxicants (Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Antimony), using high-accuracy X-Ray Fluoresence analysis (read more about that here). She goes by #LeadSafeMama on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and has over 2,500 separate posts of information (mostly consumer goods test results) on her blog at LeadSafeMama.com.
Tamara’s advocacy work has been mentioned in print in The New York Times; the New York Post; Mother Jones; Parents Magazine; Vice.com; MNN.com; TruthOut; WebMD; the Huffington Post,;USA Today; Grok Nation, and more (too many outlets to list!) – and in other media (T.V. and radio), on the Today Show; Kids in the House; Al Jazeera English; The Voice of Russia; CBS This Morning, and through news stories on CBS; ABC; NBC, and even Fox News – as well as in countless podcasts and other interviews.
Published: June 14, 2018
Updated: December 19, 2020
This Spode china (decorated with a Christmas tree for the holidays) had the following readings when tested with an XRF instrument (which tests down to single digit parts per million).
Glaze on the food surface of the dish:
- Lead (Pb): 71,900 +/- 3,500 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): Non-Detect (ND / negative)
- Mercury (Hg): Non-Detect (ND / negative)
- Arsenic (As): Non-Detect (ND / negative)
How much Lead is too much Lead?
…including some “Fun Facts”:
- Newly-manufactured items (made today) are considered unsafe for children to use if they are finished with any paint, glaze or coating that is 90 ppm Lead or higher.
- Substrates that test positive for 100 ppm Lead (or higher) are considered unsafe for children.
- There is currently no regulatory standard setting limits for Lead in paint or glaze on modern consumer goods intended for use by adults.
- Dishes are generally not considered to be “items intended for use by children” (even if they have fun decorative patterns that would obviously be attractive to children – like Christmas trees!) and, as such, new dishes manufactured today may still be made with high-Lead decorative coatings (including glazes / decals / painted markings.)
- For context: When Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, the requirement was that paint for residential use applications only (paint for houses, applied in areas that could be reached by children) must henceforth contain less than 600 ppm Lead.
- The allowable level of Lead in house paint was subsequently lowered, and today modern house paint must (like modern consumer goods for kids) also be below 90 ppm Lead [and most house paints now usually test completely negative for Lead].
- Federal funds are currently allocated for interventions in pre-1978 housing (for low income families) when the paint is positive for Lead at a level of one milligram per square centimeter [eoughly equivalent to an XRF instrument reading of 5,000 ppm Lead].
- The dish pictured here has Leaded glaze (on the food surface!) with levels of Lead that – at over 70,000 ppm – far exceed the standards above under which the feds would consider it unsafe in housing (if it were house paint – and not glaze on a dinner plate.)
- Because it is a dinner plate, and because dinner plates are not considered to be items intended for use by kids (even if it were made recently and not specifically manufactured as a dish for kids) – it is considered perfectly legal and safe.
- It takes a microscopic amount of Lead to poison a human being.
- All federal agencies agree that there is no safe level of Lead exposure.
- Glaze often wears off of the surfaces of dishes (especially with regular use and washing – either by hand or in the dishwasher.)
Given all of the above, I personally would never choose Spode china for my family, regardless of the year of manufacture (I have tested high-Lead examples from this brand with confirmed dates of manufacture as late as 2002 – which is just 18 years ago at this point, and I don’t yet know when they stopped using high Lead glazes.) Given it just takes a microscopic amount of Lead to poison a child (or any human for that matter) I think that even using a dish like this “just once” is not worth the risk – especially given there are Lead-free options out there.
Some additional reading that may be of interest
- To learn more about XRF testing, Click Here.
- To learn more about the concern for Lead in dishes, Click Here.
- Not sure what to do with your Leaded Spode dishes? Should you throw them out? Should you sell them? Here’s a post I wrote with some considerations and options.
- Click here to see more examples of Spode china that I have tested! Nearly all vintage Spode (and even some of the new Spode) that I have tested has been positive for Lead.
- Here’s a Lead-free alternative for your holiday table. These are the dishes we use every day in our home. [Link]
As always, please let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment. Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.