New post! First in a series of four that I will be doing to try to draw some distinctions between the Tupperware pieces WITH toxicants (Lead, Mercury, Cadmium and Arsenic) and those without. If you have any information or links to help inform this conversation (for example information about years made for certain model numbers?) that would be very helpful and I will update the posts accordingly! Thank you!
How can I tell if my vintage Tupperware plastic cups are toxic? By Color? By Shape? By Age?
My best and first answer is that, from a lay person’s perspective (specifically someone who is not highly-experienced in consumer goods testing) or from the perspective of someone who does not have direct access to expensive scientific testing equipment (like most of my readers), or from the perspective of someone who is not an expert in the nuances of all of the different models, styles and colors of vintage Tupperware (I haven’t yet found that expert!), it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between the more toxic Tupperware pieces (the vintage ones that have been testing positive for Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic and Mercury) and some of the newer ones (that had BPA until 2010 and – by the company’s statement – have been BPA-free since 2010.)
Also, by way of a response to some of the questions on my blog over the past week, it is important to note that the Lead found in some of these products is not detectable with a home-test-kit (like the reactive agent LeadCheck® swab kits.) Those home kits were primarily designed to work on painted coatings and they were never intended to react to solid plastic substrates, so that is also not a tool that can be used by the average consumer to determine if these have toxicants. You can read more about that here.
For the sake of this discussion, I present to you the three cups shown in the featured picture here on this page. Here are the considerations using these three cups as examples (click any of the images to see them full size):
- Color Orange in General: You cannot simply surmise that the orange cups might have heavy metals (the lighter orange cup on the far right of the three tested negative for Lead, Cadmium, Arsenic and Mercury). The model numbers on the bottom of that cup are: 116-7. There is also an “E” on the bottom of the cup. I think, based on the style and differences in markings on the bottom, that this is possibly a newer shape and style of cup than the two other (shorter) cups pictured.
- Cup Shape and Size: You cannot simply surmise that the shorter cups (which are perhaps the older style?) have (or do not have) toxicants. The yellow cup on the far left seems – by shape, design, weight and texture – to be of the exact same era as the orange one in the center, yet it is negative for the four primary toxicants I test for (specifically negative for Lead, Cadmium, Mercury and Arsenic.) The model numbers on the bottom of the short yellow cup appear to be 1320-10 (or perhaps just “320-10”) along with a capital letter “F” & the model numbers on the bottom of the short orange cup appear to be 1320-7 (or possibly just 320-7) and there does not appear to be a letter stamped on the bottom of that cup.
- Specific Color Orange: Perhaps if you are a vintage Tupperware expert, you might assert, for the sake of argument (and I am just guessing at this), that the bright orange of the center cup was specifically only used during the early 1970s, and therefore that identifies that cup as having been made during a specific era (and perhaps you could say the same about the other colors being identifiable as being made during a certain decade…) which might therefore explain why it is that it’s the one cup (of the three shown here) that is positive for toxicants (both Cadmium and Mercury! – you can read the specific test results for that cup HERE.) However, shortly I will be publishing two follow up posts to this that argues that even that distinction seems to be uncertain. [I will link that post here as soon as I have it up.]
Of course, if any one of my readers can give me more verified information about colors, styles, and model numbers in relation to manufacturing periods (any information that might help pinpoint which production years and which styles could be more likely to have heavy metals) that might be helpful…but it seems that many of the styles (specific shapes) were re-introduced across different decades, and the same appears to be true about the colors (based on the research and testing I have done so far.)
So my conclusion on this one is the simplest answer (and likely the least-satisfying answer to the reader): casual user of Tupperware cannot readily know which style or color might have toxicants based on the style, color or model number of that piece. I think for this reason, if you insist on using plastic Tupperware products (vs. safer modern non-plastic alternatives), sticking with post-2010 Tupperware products (because then you also know they are going to be BPA-free) is the best piece of advice for avoiding heavy metals in “Vintage” Tupperware.
To note: the term “vintage” is defined as at least 20 years old, which would mean pre-1999 at this point, and I have tested plastics (from several different companies) made as recently as the early-1990s that have also been positive for high levels of Lead, so without further information, I would assert that it is possible (and even likely) that Tupperware products through as late as the early-1990s might also be positive for Lead.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.