Since this post has gone viral (December 2018), I updated it with an introduction for those who are new to my website.
I am a mother of Lead poisoned children. My children were poisoned in 2005 by the work of a painting contractor, you can see more about my story in the trailer to my documentary film, HERE. Since then I have become an award-winning environmental activist for childhood Lead-poisoning prevention, you can read my brief bio HERE.
A main component of the environmental activism I do is independent consumer goods testing for toxicants, including Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic and Mercury. Here’s a link with more information about how that works.
I test things that people send me to test, and I also do home visits with families – where I test everything in their home that I (or they) have toxicity concerns about. This casserole is an example of one of the items that one of my readers asked me to test.
A lot of what people send (or bring) me to test are their vintage cookware pieces — beloved dishes that many of you have in your homes and have inherited from your mothers and grandmothers. I use an XRF analyzer for this testing (it is not the kind of testing that you, as a normal consumer, can do at home.) An XRF instrument suitable for this kind of testing usually costs something in the range of $35,000 to $50,000, equipped with the software modules and other technology required for reporting consumer goods test results in parts per million (ppm), down to single or double digit parts per million. I am trained and certified in using the instrument and I borrow or rent an instrument for the testing I do.
In many cases, when I see certain items (or a member of an entire class of similar items), I have immediate concerns for actual poisoning of the user(s), based, unfortunately, on a great deal of personal experience…for example, Franciscan Potteries dishware is often very toxic and potentially leaching, and I recommend avoiding it entirely – especially for actual food use.
Why is having Lead (and/or Cadmium) on the OUTSIDE of a casserole dish a problem?
With pieces like the vintage Corningware casserole pictured here on this post (and much of the vintage Pyrex I have tested), where the toxicants found (like Lead and Cadmium) are primarily on the outside (not on the interior food surface of the item), my concern is more for the potential long term trace level exposure that might be caused by regular use of an item like this (due to the long-term wear of the exterior painted coating).
For context, please understand that it quite literally just takes a microscopic amount of Lead to poison a human being. Even a minute amount – of a neurotoxicant as potent as Lead – in household dust (or transferring to your hands, or wearing off into your kitchen cabinets, dishwasher, sink or prep surfaces) sufficient to poison a child literally cannot be detected without the aid of XRF testing or chemical reagent testing or other sensitive testing protocols (i.e. it cannot be seen with the naked eye).
In addition to concerns for potential exposure from normal use of these items, they are also usually stored in your cabinet stacked up – with the outside of one dish stored on the inside of another, creating friction as they are moved/removed. This could transfer the worn-off trace residue on the inside of a casserole that has just been washed before storing in the cabinet (and therefore is not likely to be washed again with removal from the cabinet / before use.)
Concern for this specific type of exposure (i.g. “the exposure levels over time from deteriorating coatings on vintage dishware”) has not yet been researched or studied (although a study about the concern for the same type of exposure from glassware did come out fairly recently and you can check that out here) — but that is only because, from a practical standpoint, there is no one who stands to “benefit” from this type of research (i.e. no one who has a financial interest in proving potential harm from using Leaded cookware on a regular basis).
The glassware study linked above is a great example of a study finally being done documenting and reporting a potential concern (which I have been writing about for more than 10 years now). This gives me hope that a scientific body may eventually – sometime soon perhaps – do a study and create a report about potential Lead exposure from cookware, like the cookware I have tested and shared here on my blog.
Even in the absence of a study, because the safety of Leaded cookware has not been proven — and because Lead-free options are widely (and inexpensively) available in this day and age — I feel it is prudent never to have any Leaded cookware or utensils in our kitchens or food serving environments.
The Specific Test Results for the Casserole Pictured on This Post:
The painted decorative elements on the outside of this vintage Corningware Spice-o-Life casserole dish tested positive for Lead when tested with an XRF instrument.
Below is the set of XRF readings with the scope focused on the red tomato in the center*:
- Lead (Pb): 26,500 +/- 700 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 236 +/- 19 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 518 +/- 113 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 144 +/- 28 ppm
- Bromine (Br): 120 +/- 12 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 5,842 +/- 223 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 99 +/- 44 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 2,710 +/- 262 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 141 +/- 47 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 1,506 +/- 130 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 1,954 +/- 73 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 422 +/- 134 ppm
*Note: all other vegetables in the design were tested and results were within a similar range to the results for the tomato shown above.
(Continue reading below the image)
Below are the XRF test results for the inside food surface (plain white) of this same casserole dish (image above):
- Antimony (Sb): 77 +/- 18 ppm
- Bromine (Br): 178 +/- 10 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 9,890 +/- 303 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 667 +/- 138 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 19,700 +/- 800 ppm
Q. Why is 90 ppm “unsafe”?
For context: in 2018 the amount of Lead that is considered toxic in a modern/newly manufactured item intended for use by children is 90 ppm lead (or higher) in the coating or 100 ppm (or higher) in the substrate.
Dishware is not considered to be an “item intended for children” (even newly made casserole dishes that are manufactured in the United States) and, as such, is not regulated for total Lead content as tested/detectable with an XRF instrument.
Would you like to see more test results like this? Please consider making a small monthly gift in support of my advocacy here! https://tamararubin.com/2017/07/subscribe/
Thank you for reading, following and sharing!
As always, please ask questions if you have them and I will do my best to answer as soon as I have a moment.
Here are some other similar pieces you may want to check out, click the image to read the post about the item pictured (and to see the level of Lead – or Cadmium – that I found.)