I have long known the vintage and antique felt hats were (historically) made with unsafe levels of Mercury (as part of the felting process for the wool as I understand it), but I had never personally tested a vintage felt hat and found it to be positive for high levels of Mercury — until now.
When tested with an XRF instrument, the vintage green felt ladies’ hat pictured here had the following readings:
- Mercury (Hg): 3,844 +/- 64 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 102+/- 14 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 51 +/- 13 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 407 +/- 34 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 15 +/- 8 ppm
All tests on this blog are science-based and replicable. XRF readings reported on this blog are done for a minimum of 60-seconds each, unless otherwise noted. A Niton XL3T XRF instrument, testing in “Consumer Goods” mode was used for this testing. All metals detected are listed above (if a metal is not listed, it was not detected in Consumer Goods mode.)
Given my background in off-broadway costuming at NYU (designing, finding and building costumes – with an emphasis on finding or recreating historic looks!), I used to have an extensive vintage and antique hat collection, including many felt examples.
I was truly passionate about vintage costumes all kinds; at one point, I had more than 100 vintage or antique ladies hats that I had collected from a variety of sources over the years! Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately, given the findings I am reporting today) my entire vintage costume collection was destroyed in our total-loss house fire in the August of 2002! And while I still have a passion for costumes [and especially recreating period costumes – like this Willie Wonka costume, below, that I created with my son A.J. this past Halloween], I haven’t gotten around to starting up collecting again (too many other priorities and crises since the fire – which was followed, just a few years later, by my boys’ Lead-poisoning, in 2005!)
As a result of finding detectable (and very unsafe) levels of Mercury in vintage hats tested recently, I have a new perspective for vintage hats and costumes across the board, and will only let my own children play with vintage hats (or other vintage costume elements) that I have personally tested and found to be free of toxicants like Mercury, Lead, Cadmium and Arsenic! [That, or only let them play with recently-manufactured hats — which should actually generally be free of even trace Mercury, given new manufacturing standards and methodologies!]
While the United States does NOT have a total content limit on Mercury in consumer goods, Denmark does (you can always count on Denmark if you want to try to figure out what is likely safe or unsafe from the perspective of actually being protective of human health!) The total Mercury content, as detectable with an XRF instrument, that is considered illegal in the country of Denmark is anything 100 ppm Mercury or higher.
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
Please let me know if you have any questions.