My Grandmother’s WWII Era Brass Chanukah Menorah: 30,900 ppm Lead

This is a vintage brass Chanukah menorah that belonged to my grandparents. They were married in 1940 and I believe this menorah is from around that time as I had two that were exactly the same and I am pretty sure that my great grandmother gave one to each of her children when they were married. There is no mark or maker of any kind.

To see more menorahs I have tested, Click Here.

Tested with an XRF instrument. The full XRF readings were as follows:

The main “stem” of the menorah:

  • Lead (Pb): 30,900 +/- 1,100 ppm
  • Cadmium (Cd): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Tin (Sn): 605 +/- 140 ppm
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Selenium (Se): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Barium (Ba): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Chromium (Cr): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Zinc (Zn): 365,900 +/- 2,800 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 599,700 +/-3,400 ppm
  • Nickel (Ni): 746 +/-225 ppm
  • Iron (Fe): 863 +/- 250 ppm

The base of the menorah (slightly different style brass, possibly pressed vs. machined):

  • Lead (Pb): 15,500 +/- 800 ppm
  • Cadmium (Cd): 234 +/- 83 ppm
  • Tin (Sn): 2,205 +/- 215 ppm
  • Mercury (Hg): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Selenium (Se): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Barium (Ba): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Chromium (Cr): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Antimony (Sb): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Zinc (Zn): 387,500 +/- 3,000 ppm
  • Copper (Cu): 592,900 +/- 3,500 ppm
  • Nickel (Ni): Negative (Non-Detect)
  • Iron (Fe): 695 +/- 244 ppm

To learn more about XRF testing, Click Here.

The text below the next image is the same as on my other post about a recently manufactured / recently purchased leaded brass menorah (Click Here to see that post) as (outside of the specific XRF test results) all of the concerns and recommendations are the same.

The amount of lead that is considered toxic in an item intended for children is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint or coating or anything 100 ppm Lead (or higher) in the substrate (the base material of the product.)  Menorahs are not considered “items intended for children” so are not regulated for total lead content. In general, no vintage decorative items were ever regulated for toxicity concerns.

While I grew up with brass menorahs in my home (including this exact one!), I personally consider the regulatory loophole (that allows new Chanukah menorahs to be made of high lead content materials) a problem.

In my personal experience (48+ years), of all the holiday decorations in our home I cannot think of one single holiday decoration that is handled more often by children than a menorah. Little kids especially LOVE to touch their menorahs (many children have their very own menorah too!) Children like to put the candles in themselves. The next morning they often like to pick off the wax drippings too. And, of course, they love to light the menorah themselves each night – for eight nights in a row. All of these things involve touching the menorah and if it is made of leaded brass touching it is very likely to cause lead to rub off on to the hands of a child.

The concern is ingestion of lead residue from leaded brass items. This is a specific issue if a child might touch food (candy? holiday cookies? chocolate Chanukah gelt?) with their bare hands and then eat it after touching leaded brass (and without first washing their hands.) This happens. All.The.Time!

To be clear: I am not saying a particular menorah will poison a particular child, just that these items can be very high lead and parents should be aware. They are not intended to be used by or touched by children. As with all of my work, my goal is to inform parents of potential hazards so they can in turn make informed choices regarding what they have in their home, especially when it comes to things that might be kept for generations – as family heirlooms. #KnowBetterDoBetter. If you can have a Lead-free menorah, why wouldn’t you?

Additionally I think it is important to reiterate that scientists continue to agree that lower and lower levels of lead exposure cause damage in humans, and that there is no safe level of lead exposure to children. The concern with an item like this is that (while it might not cause acute poisoning of a particular child) it can contribute to the aggregate background lead exposure from our environment. Additionally the mining and refining of lead for the fabrication of leaded brass items that are sold new in the store is not good for humans nor for the future of our planet.

I personally avoid the concern entirely by having a lead-free (aluminum) menorah that my husband and son made me in their workshop. [Click Here to see the Chanukah menorah my husband & sons made for me!]

To see more brass items I have tested, Click Here.

In the meantime here are a few choices for Chanukah Menorahs on Amazon that are likely to be Lead-free (or at least Lead-safe!)*:

  • This one is $29.99 and made of aluminum: LINK
  • Here’s another modern design in aluminum for $26.48: LINK
  • Here’s a stainless steel one for $59.95: LINK
  • Here’s one more fun aluminum one for $29.99: LINK

Of course, if you can afford a sterling silver Chanukah menorah (especially since it will be an heirloom handed down for generations) that is a great way to go too!

Sterling Silver Menorah on Amazon

To see more holiday items I have tested, Click Here.

*Note: Three of the ads for the above linked menorahs state the products are made of aluminum. I am basing my recommendation on the assumption that the seller is correctly advertising the product. Uncoated / unpainted Aluminum products rarely test positive for any Lead and if they do it is usually a very trace contaminant not an additive (like in Leaded brass.) Of all of the choices above I would be most confident choosing the one made of Stainless Steel (in terms of toxicity concerns), but generally due to the nature of use for menorahs, I expect all of the above choices would be safe options.

For more #SaferChoices for your family, click here.

If you would like to support my independent consumer goods testing and childhood lead poisoning prevention advocacy work (including all of the information shared on this website) please consider making a contribution via GoFundMe or PayPal. Thank you!

As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts!

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tamara Rubin

*Some of the links on this page may be Amazon Affiliate links where a purchase made after clicking will support this website without costing you extra! Thank you for supporting my advocacy work in this way.

One Response to My Grandmother’s WWII Era Brass Chanukah Menorah: 30,900 ppm Lead

  1. Karen December 6, 2018 at 4:36 pm #

    That is a really cool piece of history- I can’t tell from the post if you are intending to keep it, but if not, maybe consider donating it to a museum, or nearby synagogue, Hillel house, or JCC for display

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