Well – when I first laid eyes on this vintage lunchbox, it lit up my radar (based on my experience with consumer goods of this vintage and look) – but when I tested it I was rather horrified — that this is something that was used (likely at least five days a week, for decades) as a container to carry the original owner’s lunch. The individual toxicant levels in the metal that makes up most of the case are each relatively low, but still concerning, given the number of toxicants – in combination – that this metal contains (see details below)… but then when you get to the handle… When you take into account the fact that the box is carried by the handle, and that – assuming the man consistently washed his hands before lunch – it is rather unlikely that he would happen to always wash his hands after touching the handle, before grabbing his sandwich or apple out of the lunchbox!], it is quite concerning.
Something like this would not likely cause the acute poisoning of someone who used it daily – but I think (especially given its nature as a lunchbox) it could easily add to the user’s chronic low-level exposure and aggregate body burden of these extremely potent neurotoxicants – a possible contributing factor or potentially significant source for the cause of “mystery” ailments later in life.
Most concerning: This vintage luchbox was given to me by a mother who was letting her child use it today (in 2019) as a container for his toys and other items. Of course, given it was designed, marketed, and used as a lunchbox (and given it is unpainted metal) she would have no reason to recognize this as an unsafe addition to her child’s things; she, too was horrified when I tested it however – and she offered it to me for my “Evil Goods” collection, so I could report about it on my blog – so that other mothers (and fathers, and grandparents) of young children might be educated about the potential concern and would reconsider any thoughts they might have about giving their child a vintage lunchbox to play with (or to use for their school lunch).
The test results below are from testing with an XRF instrument in “Consumer Goods” mode. Each test was done for a minimum of 60 seconds, and was repeated multiple times to confirm the results. These results are science based, and replicable. The XRF used is the same instrument used by the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to test for toxicants in newly-manufactured consumer goods.
Test 1: side of box, exterior
- Lead (Pb): 13 +/- 5 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): 24 +/- 9 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 164 +/- 56 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 104 +/- 13 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 64 +/- 15 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,211 +/- 101 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 23 +/- 6 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 456 +/- 271 ppm
Test 2: exterior side of box
- Lead (Pb): 235 +/- 21 ppm
- Arsenic (As): 39 +/- 16 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 311 +/- 102 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 142 +/- 21 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 59 +/- 22 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 3,243 +/- 130 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 6,513 +/- 576 ppm
Test 3: red plastic handle
- Lead (Pb): 16 +/- 5 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): 1,585 +/- 30 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 3,246 +/- 41 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 524 +/- 85 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 328 +/- 17 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 155 +/- 12 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 101 +/- 12 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 2,881 +/- 68 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 8 +/- 5 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 387 +/- 184 ppm
Takeaway: Buy new lunchboxes for your kids. New metal ones that are designed and sold specifically to be used by children should be completely free of all of the toxic heavy metals found in the lunchbox shown here. I have not tested many new lunch boxes, but I will share one similar product here that I bought for my son and tested – so you can see the metals profile on a newly made similar item: LINK HERE.
To see more Thermos brand items I have tested (vintage and newer), click here.
To see more lunch boxes I have tested, click here.
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
Please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them.
Hi, I recently bought one of these as a gift for my dad. He likes to keep vintage nick-nacks as wall art. Do you think it will be safe for him to keep it in his house? Thanks for your time!
Hello, i obtained one of these bad boys from my grandpa, he received it from a friend. Its a rusted old black painted thermos like the one you showed and i’m currently trying to remove the rust.
Are all lunchboxes like this model/design toxic? If so i need options of what to do to it.
Yes – they are all likely to be high in Lead at least – and then these other things too… sorry to say.
Unfortunately because it is a food-use product I don’t recommend holding on to it – either sell it as a collectable with a Lead warning OR (better yet) destroy it – so it doesn’t contaminate someone else’s lunch in the future: