Originally published: December 20, 2016
Updated: December 28, 2019
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).
Which dishes are Lead-free?
How can I choose Lead-free dishes for my family?
Question: “What dishes do you use in your home every day?” I get this question several times a day it seems!
Answer: Keep it simple.
To help keep our kitchen (and the food we feed our children!) Lead-free, we have a combination of dishes we have tested and found to be safe — from stainless steel and titanium camping ware to white glass Corelle. We also have a few other pieces of white ceramic ware that I have tested and confirmed as Lead-free with an XRF instrument. The common theme is simplicity. The fewer decorative elements the less likely new/ modern dishes are to have Lead, arsenic, or cadmium. That said, please note that fancy antique/vintage white fine china can have VERY HIGH levels of Lead, so white ceramic is not a guarantee of Lead-free dishes.
We have purchased most of our dishes at either Ikea, K-mart, New Seasons Market or REI — but some of them can also be found on Amazon. I have included the links to our dishes (or dishes very similar to ours that I would confidently use with my family) below.
All of the plain white Corelle glass dishes I have tested have been Lead-free. Point to note: keep the glass dishes (plates and bowls) and throw out the ceramic mugs that come with this 20-piece set (if you want to live completely Lead-free). Or (I just found out!), you can buy the 12-piece set with no mugs! All of the coffee mugs I have tested from these sets have had at least some Lead in them (the mugs are made of a different material than the plates). Some of the modern colored designs have also been Lead-free, but the same designs are not consistently available so I can’t make a recommendation for currently available designs that include colorful elements.
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Titanium & Stainless Campware:
While the Corelle is super durable (believe me, ours has survived four rowdy boys and all of their friends), titanium and stainless campware take Lead-free durability up a notch. Bonus: You have dishes you can take with you when you go camping! The links here are not the exact ones we have in our home but they are very close to it. We have stainless plates, bowls, and cups as well as stainless food storage containers. When choosing metal dishware, make sure it is not adorned or decorated in any way. Even the markings for product logos (if painted on instead of stamped or etched into the metal) can be Lead-containing paint as Lead paint sticks to metal better than other paints — my advice: AVOID anything with painted-on logos or markings. Enamel-coated metal camping dishware also often has Lead in the enamel, so I avoid those as well.
Here are some campware options I found on Amazon that are the same or similar to what we use in our homes:
- Compact set from HumanCentric
- 3-piece set of 8.5-inch plates
- Set of four bowls for children from Caveman Cups
- Set of four stainless 8 oz cups from HumanCentric
- Set of four stainless divided camping plates (especially fun for kids who don’t want their foods touching each other)!
Important to Note:
Almost ALL vintage china (and a lot of modern china) I have tested with an XRF has had at least some Lead. Most have been at levels that are hundreds or thousands of times the current acceptable level (set as “acceptable” by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission [CPSC]) for items manufactured and sold as intended for children. I have personally tested thousands of dishes in the past eight years! Dishes are not considered “items intended for children” so they can still legally have total Lead content at levels above what is considered safe for kids. The only dishes that legally have to have coatings or glazes below 90 parts per million (90 ppm) Lead (the CPSC standard) are dishes sold as children’s (or baby) dish sets.
Also very important: I am not saying that your specific vintage or other Leaded china will poison you. (I rarely say that!) What I am saying is that there should be no Lead in our kitchens at all. If we can make informed choices as consumers and choose Lead-free options, why wouldn’t we want to do that? Lead is one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man and does not belong anywhere in our kitchens or on our dining tables. Period.
Mother of Lead-poisoned children
Unexpected Lead Expert
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These are our favorite dishes right now: