#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)

#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)


Question: Do dragon tears have lead?

Answer: Some do and some do not.

Given the nature of the way most colored glass is commonly produced, many dragon tears do have at least some lead, and some have quite high amounts of lead — at levels considered dangerous for children by current/modern regulatory standards.

[Even NEW dragon tears often have lead, but my experience has been that older ones are more likely to have higher levels of lead than newer ones.]

Lead levels in a product like this also depend on the market for which they were manufactured.

Some glass drops / dragon tears are manufactured and sold specifically for use in fish tanks. These are possibly likely to be lower in lead, given the potential damage heavy metals can cause to very sensitive tropical fish.

Some glass drops are manufactured and sold for use as children’s toys (in which case they should only test negative for lead OR if they test positive it should be at levels BELOW 90 parts per million.)

Others are sold for art projects or floral applications (to weigh down flower vases for decorative applications for example) and with an item like that there is no regulatory measure requiring them to be low-lead (regardless of when they might have been manufactured).

Below is an image with a variety of glass dragon tears that I tested back in 2013.  These I had in my home because my children had participated in Waldorf School programs and they are very popular with the Waldorf set (for a variety of educational uses and applications.)

Please note the highest lead level of the ones pictured here is 8,590 ppm lead (Pb). In general I have found that the ones with an iridescent coating are often higher lead than ones without, although that is not always the case.

Continue to scroll down for the results of XRF testing I did on some newly purchased (August 2018) dragon tears (glass drops / mancala stones), “Made in Vermont” by Maple Landmark – intended for use by children (link.)

#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)

In August of 2018 I purchased the following product from Amazon (link here*, images below).

A parent in one of my online groups for lead poisoning prevention awareness and advocacy said this specific product had been tested with an XRF and found to be lead-free, however I disputed that allegation based on my experience with this type of product, and wanted to have them tested myself. (My XRF test results are below the image.)

[It’s possible (& likely!) that – for the other parent in my online group – the mancala stones were tested by an XRF instrument that was not designed for consumer goods testing. When testing consumer goods it is very important that the right type of instrument is used as the low threshold of detection is much more sensitive/accurate on instruments specifically designed to test consumer goods!]

#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)

Here are the specific XRF test results for the package of Maple Landmark brand (Made In Vermont) glass drops pictured here. Each of the three colors was tested separately, multiple times, for at least a minute at a time to confirm the results.

Green Glass Maple Landmark Drop

  • Lead (Pb): 81 +/- 17 ppm
  • Cadmium (Cd): Non-detect (ND)
  • Mercury (Hg): Non-detect (ND)
  • Barium (Ba): 4,520 +/- 200 ppm
  • Antimony (Sb): 2,550 +/- 97 ppm
  • Bromine (Br): 10 +/- 3 ppm
  • Tin (Sn): 53 +/- 18 ppm
  • Zinc (Zn): 680 +/- 63 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 366 +/- 60 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 481 +/- 164 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 1,038 +/- 71 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 2,233 +/- 137 ppm
  • Indium (In): 53 +/- 13 ppm

Clear Glass Maple Landmark Drop

  • Lead (Pb): Non-detect (ND)
  • Cadmium (Cd): Non-detect (ND)
  • Mercury (Hg): Non-detect (ND)
  • Barium (Ba): 4,442 +/- 202 ppm
  • Antimony (Sb): 2,912 +/- 112 ppm
  • Bromine (Br):  Non-detect (ND)
  • Tin (Sn):  Non-detect (ND)
  • Zinc (Zn): 602 +/- 60 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 179 +/- 50 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 891 +/- 194 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 985 +/- 68 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 2,069 +/- 129 ppm
  • Indium (In): 55 +/- 14 ppm

Blue Glass Maple Landmark Drop

  • Lead (Pb): 106 +/- 19 ppm
  • Cadmium (Cd): Non-detect (ND)
  • Mercury (Hg): Non-detect (ND)
  • Barium (Ba): 4,578 +/- 200 ppm
  • Antimony (Sb): 753 +/- 41 ppm
  • Bromine (Br): Non-detect (ND)
  • Tin (Sn): 38 +/- 19 ppm
  • Zinc (Zn): 31,400 +/- 900 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 722 +/- 75 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 1,549 +/- 198 ppm
  • Vanadium (V): 798 +/- 80 ppm
  • Titanium (Ti): 1,650 +/- 137 ppm
  • Cobalt (Co): 288 +/- 95 ppm

This brand (Maple Landmark) is being sold as a toy and complies with current federal standards for toy safety (in that they are below 90 ppm lead when taking the margin of error into account.) The product is considered safe by all current standards.

If “lead-safe” is good enough for you (and for many people it is, they are happy to use federal standards as a guideline), then this product is possibly a good choice for your family.

In my opinion however, NO amount lead belongs in ANY toy intended for use by a child.

Note: I also have significant concerns for the potential for ingestion on a toy like this, regardless of compliance with legislated standards, and despite the fact that there have never been any studies covering this concern.

Why? Well, there have been studies of “crystal” (leaded clear glass), and we DO know that lead can/does leach out of crystal vessels like decanters, heavily contaminating the contents of any acidic beverages stored therein (e.g. alcohol, juice and even the acidity in milk can pull lead from crystal) — and it is my understanding that stomach acid can be many times more corrosive than acidic beverages!

That fact paired with the concern that the lead in some dragon tears is specifically in the iridescent coating on the outside (and potentially more accessible/dissolvable in acids than if the lead was in the main glass of the substrate) heightens the concern for ingestion.

Outside of the question noted above (about whether or not the appropriate XRF instrument was used for testing in the set tested for the member of my group), the problem with dragon tears is that they can vary significantly from batch to batch and from company to company — so testing results from one batch from one company might be very different from the test results for the same product from a different batch from the same company!

Said simply: In nearly a decade of consumer goods testing, I have never found any particular company whose dragon tears consistently tested lead-free.

As a result, I do not recommend ANY glass dragon tears for any application used by children —because the average consumer does not have access to an XRF to test for variations from batch-to-batch in order to confirm safety.

Note: There are several similar types of products like this — where the product type (or substance/substrate/coating) itself is too variable (or XRF test results to date have been too variable) for me to declare/recommend a specific material composition, brand or model as “lead-safe” or “lead-free”.

Products I do not recommend include ANY AND ALL:

  • enameled cast iron cookware – including and especially anything from Le Creuset,
  • enameled dishware (like camping dishes),
  • consumer goods made of yellow brass,
  • crayons (natural or standard),
  • glass dragon tears,
  • and all types and colors and ages of “Visionware®” (including the original brand and many copy-cat brands of the popular translucent glass cookware.)

With each of these types of products I have tested too many from any given brand or style that have tested positive for either high levels or trace levels of toxicants, too many for me to recommend any of these products, ever.

#SaferChoices – Instead, for your mancala stones/dragon tears – consider the following options:

  1.  real stones that you collect at beach, or
  2. small shells (like snail shells), or
  3. (if you need to go with brightly colored and translucent for some reason) the plastic fillers for fish tanks (which is what I bought for my children when we were doing an incentivized reward program for good behavior (we used the “stones” as counters to earn rewards.)

As always, please let me know if you have any questions!

Tamara Rubin

*Links on my page may be Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something after clicking on one of these links I may receive a small percentage of what you spend at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting my advocacy work in this way!

#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)


#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)

#AskTamara: Do Glass Dragon Tears Have Lead? (Aka: Squashed Marbles, Glass Drops or Mancala Stones?)

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.