Vintage (1972-1988) Corning Ware Spice-o-Life Casserole: 26,500 ppm Lead + 236 ppm Cadmium

Since this post is going viral (December 2018), I thought I would update it with a little 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

Here’s a link to a post on a blog that helps to date many of the Corningware patterns.

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!

Thank you for reading, following and sharing!

Please ask questions if you have them!

Tamara Rubin

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.)

24 Responses to Vintage (1972-1988) Corning Ware Spice-o-Life Casserole: 26,500 ppm Lead + 236 ppm Cadmium

  1. Sabrina Literati December 28, 2018 at 11:14 am #

    Apologies for an uninformed question. I am all set to chuck my corningware above. But does the lead, or cadmium in the patter on the outside of the dish leach into the food in the inside of the dish?

    Thank you

    • Tamara December 28, 2018 at 1:08 pm #

      Hi Sabrina! Since you are new to my page, I have updated the post with more information and an introduction to my work. I have more than 1,400 posts here on this blog and many do not have introductions or additional information (because that would bog down the information a bit!) – but I had no idea the this post would go viral. Since it is going viral (At least viral for me!) and has had nearly 2,000 views since I first posted it last night (!) I updated the post so that folks new to my site would have more background for my work and for the concern of Lead in cookware – including answering your specific question. Please let me know if the update does not answer your question or if you have additional questions after reading it. Thank you for being here!

      • Sabrina Literati December 28, 2018 at 2:04 pm #

        Very helpful…thank you

        • Tamara December 28, 2018 at 2:16 pm #

          Oh good!


  2. Carleen Sing December 28, 2018 at 2:19 pm #

    Can you tell me what year the lead was no longer used? Or is it still. I have a few of these in the younger category also.
    Also, wondering what to replace my, similar, cooking bowls with. How can I know that what I purchase now won’t have lead etc or on them?
    Thank you very much for the alert and for researching this.

    • Tamara December 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm #

      So far I have tested designs dating to 1998 – all positive for Lead. I haven’t tested any newer ones yet that I can pinpoint a date-range for. Which patterns do you have? Do you know the year of manufacture? Here’s a link to all of the ones I have tested:

      • Pam Wes December 28, 2018 at 5:33 pm #

        What are some alternative safe dishes to use? I have a cabinet full of Corningware thinking it was a safe choice when all the info on aluminium surfaced. What are good choices to cook with?

      • Carleen Sing December 28, 2018 at 8:21 pm #

        Wow, speedy reply. Thank you. I have one blue cornflour so it gets to stay. 🙂 One which you have pictured with veg on the side, so it’s leavng. Also one which is white inside and out and has Corning Ware F 14 B 4 litre, made in USA , 19 on the base.

  3. Shay s December 29, 2018 at 7:46 am #

    Hi I found all this info to be quite useful. I am curious to know if you have tested any temptation pieces?

    • Tamara December 29, 2018 at 9:32 am #

      Can you share a link with me? With a photo?

  4. Jennifer December 29, 2018 at 3:42 pm #

    Have you tested the Corning wear with the blue design on the outside?

    • Tamara December 29, 2018 at 4:21 pm #

      Yes – the casseroles? Older ones can be leaded, new ones are lead-free. You can click the “Corningware” tab at the top of this post to see the other designs I have tested.

  5. Tracy Weldon December 30, 2018 at 4:16 pm #

    I have several pieces of Corningware from the early 70’s in the sunflower pattern/colors.I looked through all that you have posted and didn’t see anything like mine. do you have any idea if that one has been tested? I bought most of mine around 1971. thanks bunches.

    • Tamara December 30, 2018 at 4:37 pm #

      I have tested the sunflowers and they were also positive for lead. Pretty much all of the patterns through at least the year 2000 have been positive for high levels of Lead.

      – Tamara

      • Tracy Weldon December 30, 2018 at 5:14 pm #

        Thanks for letting me know. Darn! I love these and they were given to me by someone who is now deceased. I hate to give them up, but lead isn’t something I want around. Sigh. Thanks for all that you do.

  6. Betty Cox December 31, 2018 at 5:39 pm #

    So your telling me.. y grandmothers Franciscian Desert Rose…crafted in California USA are potentially dangerous to serve of eat from the items…,,,Pkwase tell me more…..Thank you….,

  7. Sam January 1, 2019 at 6:43 am #

    Great article Tamara. Are pyrex clear dishes safe?

    • Tamara January 1, 2019 at 12:50 pm #

      Hi Sam!

      Generally yes they are. New ones will be Lead-free, vintage clear Pyrex sometimes has very low level trace lead (usually under 300 ppm if at all.)


  8. Andy Horn January 6, 2019 at 10:05 am #


    On the inside surface you only give the following results:

    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

    I presume this means that your XRF did not detect any lead, cadmium or chromium on the inside surface that comes into contact with the food. Could you please confirm this?

    As an environmental scientist I am quite interested in this topic and have a colleague who has worked on a similar issue, finding significant lead intake from acidic foods served from pottery with high-lead glazes (in Kazakstan, I believe). My main concern is with the surfaces that will come into contact with food. I think that any chips of the pattern paint which contain high concentrations of lead, cadmium, and chromium can be rinsed or wiped out immediately prior to use. This would allow safe use of the cookware as food will not contact the painted surfaces.


    -Andy Horn

    • Esther Thaler January 27, 2019 at 4:31 pm #

      Andy, what is your friend of the scientist and yourself think about the metals found on the inside make up of the corning ware, the Bromine, Antimony, zinc, iron etc?

    • Ben February 7, 2019 at 11:37 am #

      Hi Tamara – I’m also interested in this same question. Sounds like lead was detected in the decorative image on the outside of the pan, but no lead was mentioned on the inside cooking surface of the pan. This leads me to believe that the pan is still safe to use. Can you confirm or clarify this? Thank you!

  9. Christine January 20, 2019 at 8:17 am #

    Wow, thank you so much for this. I have been using an older Crock Pot, and I’m wondering if it is toxic.

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