This company (Sweese) is obviously doing an excellent job trying to create a completely Lead-free product… however the ceramic mug pictured here (a new mug purchased in 2019 from Sweese) simply is not Lead-FREE. I would classify this as “low-lead“, “almost ‘Lead-free’” , or even “Lead-SAFE” — and accordingly, instead of imprinting the bottom of the mug with “Lead-free” (see photo), which it simply, literally is not, the company should consider imprinting the bottom of their products with the words ”Lead-safe”.
Why is Sweese selling these products as “Lead-free” when they clearly contain Lead?
Unfortunately I see this a lot, and there is simply not enough time in the day for me to have one-on-one conversations with every single company that chooses to use this “Lead-free” language without doing thorough appropriate testing that could help them make that definite determination (using alternate testing methodologies in addition to the leach testing that is sadly the only current U.S. Federal standard in place for dishware).
When a company goes out of their way to mark their product as “Lead-FREE” and that product is a ceramic dishware or cookware product (mugs, casseroles, dishes, etc.) this labeling is – more-often-than-not – indicative of the fact that the company did two things that supported their claims / supported their [technically mistaken] understanding that the product they are manufacturing is “Lead-free”:
- They did leach-testing on the product, and made sure it was not leaching any detectable Lead, given the limitations of leach-testing.
- They carefully sourced (or personally manufactured) their glazes and made sure that Lead was not a listed added ingredient in the glaze.
Unfortunately, these actions simply do not 100% guarantee that an item (especially a ceramic item) is actually Lead-free. The testing done by 99.99999% of these companies does not include total content testing – using either laboratory digestive methods or XRF technology – and it is only with either (or both) of these methods that one can confirm that an item is literally Lead-free. Both the glaze and the substrate (the base ceramic of the item) need to be tested for total Lead content down to single digit parts per million (using lab testing or XRF technology) before a company can accurately make the claim that their product is Lead-free.
I do applaud Sweese for undertaking their obvious efforts to eliminate Lead from their manufacturing processes and supply chain, but I also implore them to change their labeling to the more accurate (and equally commendable) language of “Lead-safe”. In practice, it is nearly impossible to create a glazed ceramic product that is consistently actually Lead-free (for example I have not yet found a mug manufacture to recommend to a client who has been looking for a truly Lead-free ceramic mug to put their branding on for more than a year now!) To see the exact XRF testing of this mug pictured here, continue reading.
When tested with an XRF instrument, this 2019 Sweese brand ceramic mug – labeled “Lead-free” (with white glaze) had the following readings:
Test one – on the bottom of the mug (black logo area)
- Lead (Pb): 27 +/ 11 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 103 +/- 44 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 11,900 +/- 300 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 906 +/- 140 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 75 +/- 15 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 424 +/- 48 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 879 +/- 81 ppm
- Zirconium (Zr): 1,591 +/- 44 ppm
Test two – on the side of the mug (top of handle)
- Lead (Pb): 29 +/ 12 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 8,890 +/- 266 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,037 +/- 152 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 59 +/- 14 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 429 +/- 45 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 791 +/- 72 ppm
Test three – on the side of the mug (180 second test)
- Lead (Pb): 27 +/ 7 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 58 +/- 25 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 11,100 +/- 200 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,102 +/- 87 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 65 +/- 8 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 478 +/- 28 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 950 +/- 46 ppm
Please continue reading below the image.
Test four – unglazed rim of base ceramic on the bottom of the mug*
- Lead (Pb): 24 +/ 11 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 133 +/- 44 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 5,241 +/- 182 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 1,505 +/- 179 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 77 +/- 15 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 265 +/- 33 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 507 +/- 53 ppm
*The rim is much smaller than the size of the testing window of the XRF instrument, so this reading includes a very small amount of the glazed area on either side of the unglazed rim (and as such, is not as high-accuracy as it would be if the rim was wide enough to fill the entire testing window).
Test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. All tests were done using an XRF instrument reading for metals in “consumer goods mode.” Metals not detected by the instrument are not listed above. Tests were done for a minimum of 60 seconds each unless otherwise noted, and were repeated multiple times on each component to confirm the levels reported.
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