For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-Federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
When tested with an XRF instrument, this vintage Tupperware brand yellow plastic “Cake Decorator” tool (a tool that one would use to scrape along the surface of the frosting and make patterns [something I would bet $1,000,000 was often later licked by children wanting the extra frosting bits when mom or grandma was done making the cake!]) had the following readings:
- Lead (Pb): 1,283 +/- 29 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): Negative / Non-Detect
- Mercury (Hg): Negative / Non-Detect
- Arsenic (As): 135 +/- 21 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 184 +/- 80 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 461 +/- 55 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): Negative / Non-Detect
- Selenium (Se): Negative / Non-Detect
- Bromine (Br): 28 +/- 4 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 31 +/- 14 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 260 +/- 13 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 14 +/- 8 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 286 +/- 28 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 4,251 +/- 294 ppm
Metals not listed were not detected by the XRF instrument.
For context: the amount of Lead considered unsafe in a newly manufactured item intended for use by children is anything 90 ppm or higher in the paint or coating and anything 100 ppm or higher in the substrate. As a result, by current/modern manufacturing standards, this item would not be considered safe for children’s use if sold and marketed to children today.
As with many other companies who are trying to deflect blame for potential toxic exposure to their customers who purchased their products historically, Tupperware has stated (to some of my readers who have made inquiries) that they have always complied with or exceeded all government regulatory standards for their products. This is all well and good, except for the fact that, unfortunately, when this was manufactured there were no limits on total content of heavy metals (as detectable by XRF technology) in kitchenware. While some of the yellow vintage Tupperware brand items have tested negative (non-detect) for Lead, the average consumer (you) cannot tell by simply just looking at which items might have Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, and/or Cadmium — and which might be free of these heavy metals.
As a result, I would recommend not using this item or any other vintage Tupperware items for any food use purposes. Here’s my article about disposing of items that test positive for high levels of toxic heavy metals.
For those who ask “What is vintage?” — generally, vintage refers to items 20-years-old or older. It seems (based on the testing I have done to date) the Tupperware items that are testing positive for high levels of toxicants are primarily those from the 1980s, although I understand that by Tupperware’s own admission, any products made prior to 2010 may also have unsafe levels of BPA. Here is a nearly complete image set of all the pages from a 1980s Tupperware catalog so you can look through and identify potentially concerning items.
Takeaway: If you must use plastics in your kitchen (and Tupperware specifically) please consider only using post-2010 pieces — and for other brands, please look for labeling that specifies “BPA-Free.”
If you work with or for Tupperware (or if you are a regular customer), please consider approaching Tupperware and asking them to address this concern (for heavy metals found in their vintage pieces) in a public statement. They have not yet done this since I brought the concern to the public’s attention in March 2019 (with this original article about the yellow measuring cups) and the only response I have received as a result of my inquires can be seen at this link.
Mother of Lead-poisoned children
To learn more about my story, please watch this 2.5 minute video: link.