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).
Originally posted: May 23, 2019
Updated: February 24, 2020
Introduction: This is just one of our articles with the test results for a vintage Tupperware item that I tested, which ended up being positive for high levels of toxicants. To see more of the vintage Tupperware items we have tested, please click this link.
What year was the cup discussed in this article made?
I bought the cup in this article used (in 2019) at a local antique store for $2. While I cannot tell what year it was made based on the markings on the bottom of the cup or other factors (see more photos below), it looks like it is possibly older than the one pictured in this 1982 catalog (as the shape and color appear to be slightly different than the 6 ounce tumblers shown in this catalog example) — specifically, the cup I tested is more of a mustard yellow and the sides appear to be more sloped than this similar example in the 1982 catalog.
What were the exact test results for this cup?
- Lead (Pb): 876 +/- 13 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 331 +/- 7 ppm
- Arsenic (As):87 +/- 9 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 442 +/- 43 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 282 +/- 27 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 401 +/- 8 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 14 +/- 4 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 45 +/- 9 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 319 +/- 79 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 4,288 +/- 161 ppm
Metals not listed were not detected by the XRF instrument. Tests were done for a full 3-minutes (180 seconds). Results are accurate, replicable, and science-based. All testing on this site is done with a freshly calibrated Niton XL3T XRF instrument in consumer goods mode, unless otherwise noted.
How much Lead & Cadmium is an unsafe amount?
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. The amount of Cadmium that is considered toxic is either 40 ppm or 75 ppm, depending on which standard you look at (for total Cadmium content in consumer goods). Cadmium is a known carcinogen (it causes cancer). As a result, by current/modern manufacturing standards, this item would not be considered safe for use by children if sold and marketed to children today.
What does the company (Tupperware) have to say about this?
As with many other companies that 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 cup 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 discern by simply looking for which items might have Lead, Arsenic, Mercury, and/or Cadmium — and which might be free of these heavy metals.
If I have suspect Tupperware items, what should I do with them?
Because of the concern for the presence of toxic heavy metals in these items (especially in the oranges, yellows, and greens!) I would recommend not using this item or any other vintage Tupperware items for any food use purposes. Here’s my article about what to do with items that test positive for high levels of toxic heavy metals.
What is “Vintage?”
For those who ask “What is vintage?” — generally, (from the perspective of vintage item collectors) “vintage” refers to items 20-years-old or older. It seems (based on the testing I have done to date) the vintage Tupperware items that are testing positive for high levels of toxicants are primarily those from the 1980s (and possibly the 1970s), although I understand that by Tupperware’s own admission, any products made prior to 2010 may also have unsafe levels of BPA (another reason to avoid any pre-2010 Tupperware).
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.