This vintage Temper-ware by Lenox (Made in the USA, Fall Bounty pattern) was a likely source of Lead exposure for a child. Mama sent me this plate to test after she first confirmed it was positive for Lead by testing it with a swab. While not all vintage dishes will test positive with a LeadCheck swab (reactive agent Lead test), if one does test positive with a swab it is very likely for the dish to be a signifiant source of exposure for the user, especially if they are food use plates in daily use and even more so if the decorative pattern tests very high for Lead as this dish did.
Can you test your dishes for Lead with a LeadCheck swab at home? Read more about that here.
Even more disturbing, please take a look at the level of wear that you can see in the pattern (photo below). That is a clear demonstration that the very high Lead glaze was likely wearing into the food of the person(s) using this dish.
The Lenox dish pictured above came in with the following readings when tested with an XRF instrument:
The food surface (center of the dish / decorative pattern) had the following readings:
- Lead (Pb): 173,200 +/- 9,800 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 700 +/- 230 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 3,205 +/- 398 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 1,607 +/- 169 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 204 +/- 99 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 4,124 +/- 378 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 583 +/- 133 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 19,400 +/- 1,500 ppm
- Cobalt (Co): 5,512 +/- 515 ppm
The plain “white” (sort of a speckled stoneware look finish) had the following reading (tested on the back of the plate):
- Lead (Pb): 150,700 +/- 7,000 ppm
- Arsenic (As): 1,775 +/- 531 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 3,107 +/- 469 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 125 +/- 44 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 204 +/- 57 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 233 +/- 122 ppm
Click here to see more Lenox pieces that I have tested and posted here on this blog.
The amount of lead that is considered unsafe in an item intended for use by children is anything 90 parts per million (ppm) or higher in the paint, glaze or coating. Most newly manufactured dishware is not regulated for XRF detectable amounts of Lead, with the exception being newly manufactured dishware that is expressly made and sold with the intention of being used by children.
Historically dishware manufacturers have gotten away with making this sort of toxic product by claiming either that their products are not made for use by children or by (in the case of vintage or antique products) claiming that they followed all applicable regulations at the time of manufacture. Loosely translated this usually means there was no relevant regulation around XRF detectable levels of toxicants at the time of manufacture OR that the applicable regulations at that time were not enforced OR that the standards were lax and not protective of human health.
The modern leach testing regulatory standard for determining if dishware is Lead-safe is also not a reliable standard (especially for daily use functional food-use ceramics) and you can read more about that concern by clicking on this link.
That said, big companies like Lenox seem to be working towards removing Lead and other toxicants from their products (as newer products from them tend to consistently have less Lead than older ones.)
If I owned vintage high-Lead pieces from a prominent china company still in operation today (like Lenox), I would consider contacting them and asking them for a refund for a full set of dishes at the current value of a new set of dishes OR I would ask them to replace my set with a new Lead-free set.
If you feel compelled to hold on to a high-Lead vintage dishware piece (for sentimental reasons) I encourage people to consider getting rid of most of the set and taking one piece (as an example) to put in a shadow box behind glass. With that shadow box put in a poem or story of why the piece has sentimental value to your family and perhaps include a few other pieces of memorabilia from the same era. On the BACK of the shadow box (in highly visible bold print!) mark that the dish is high Lead and should not EVER be used for food-use purposes. If you have many children or grandchildren and many pieces of china you could make a similar shadow box for each child.
Read more about testing dishes here.
To see the #LeadFree dishes I use in my home, click here.
For more #SaferChoices for your family, click here.
To make a contribution in support of my independent consumer goods testing and lead poisoning prevention advocacy work, click here.
Thank you for reading and thank you for sharing my pots.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Gwyn Zmolek says
Hi! I appreciate all of your dedication to the lead (and other) issues in our world. I have a question for you, after reading your article on temperware by Lenox. My 25 year old daughter is obsessed with this vintage look and really wants to purchase a set from a dealer. Obviously, it looks like there are traces of lead in the product but I am unclear if it is just dangerous for children or if she should be cautious as well considering she has not yet had children and plans to someday. I am sure you are busy but I hope you can understand a concerned mom. I am including an email from Lenox that came to me upon inquiry. Feel free to share if you find it helpful.
Thank you for your recent email.
Lenox has been a leader in the tableware industry for over 130 years and our manufacturing process is dependable and trustworthy. Our products are government tested annually and we assure you that our products test far below the stringent lead limits set by the Federal Food and Drug Administration and Tableware Safety Program standards. We want to assure you that the safety of our customers is very important to us. We value your patronage and hope that you will continue to support the Lenox product line.
Our patterns have passed FDA and Prop 65 requirements for the extraction of lead and cadmium.
If you are asking if our product is 100% lead-free the answer is no. Some patterns, that have heavy decorating or hand enameling may use a small amount of lead – far below the FDA standards, and far below the tableware standards as well.
Temper-Ware is a retired line of Lenox ceramic dinnerware with a colored glaze. Alumina was added to the clays to make the china more durable. Temper-Ware is dishwasher-safe and has been safely used in the microwave.
If we may be of further assistance, please e-mail us at Info@Lenox.com. Additionally, our representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:30 am – 8:00 pm est, Saturday 8:30 am – 4:30 pm est, at our toll-free number 1-800-223-4311. We appreciate your interest in our company and we hope that you continue to visit our site at http://www.lenox.com.
Lenox Customer Service
Wow! It is so frightening to me that they are attempting to dismiss the fact that the glaze on these dishes is more than 17% Lead. The reason my posts say that this is unsafe for kids is because that is the only relevant standard. They are, in fact, unsafe for all humans – especially at levels that high! Hands full with kids – will respond more later when I have a moment. Thank you for commenting.
Nadine Anderson says
I have the Temper-ware Lenox Blue Breeze from 1980. We have used it off and on for all these years. The back of my plates look alot like the “Fall Bounty” Temper-ware which causes me to think my Blue Breeze must have lead as well. Does it?
I would absolutely expect your dishes would be high Lead – at levels comparable to the item pictured on this post.
Thank you for your quick response, I am so disappointed
YW – and sorry! You may want to read this post too:
Also this might be relevant for context: https://tamararubin.com/2019/12/this-crystal-juice-glass-was-likely-the-source-of-a-boys-mysterious-lead-poisoning-the-glass-is-351400-ppm-lead-90ppm-is-illegal-in-kids-items/
Nadine Anderson says
What about Dell wood by Menagerie dinnerware, do you know if it is lead free?
James Smith says
I inherited a very large set of Lenox Temperware. Fireflower pattern . I am guessing that bright orange and yellow in the pattern is lead heavy . We have been using the dishes on and off ( I inherited 15 different sets of china from various relatives) and I am thinking we need to stop using the lenox temperware immediately!!! My husband is a chemical engineer so hopefully we get alot of the sets tested. Some of from Germany and some are from Poland . Thank you for this article and your research !!!