Originally posted: October 10, 2019
Updated: December 28, 2019
Several months ago, a mom who lives nearly 3,000 miles away from where I live in Portland, Oregon contacted me to see if there was any chance I could come to her home to help her. She had just learned that her 13-year-old kiddo tested positive for a very high level of Lead (via a 24-hour urine test) and she was stumped as to what the exposure source could be.
The boy’s Lead test results are in the image below.
His Lead level was literally “off the chart.”
Once presented with these test results, the family examined their life and their home for potential sources of Lead — but could not determine the cause of the child’s poisoning. They live in a new-construction home, and none of the “regular suspects” are in their home [vintage toys, antique furniture, work- or hobby-related Lead dust tracked-in on a parent’s clothes/shoes, etc.]!
The child’s doctor said to his parents that with a level “as high as that” the only plausible explanation was that their son “was likely eating lead”, which mom knew was simply not the case. [Just about any mom would know if her son was eating Lead!
Her son had been sick since he was about two years old (so for nearly 12 years!) with a host of symptoms and cluster of related proposed diagnoses [his symptoms included arthritic joints – and he wasn’t yet 14 years old!] The mom shared with me that she was spending thousands of dollars on supplements, doctor visits and therapies – yet her kiddo did not seem to be getting better.
This was the first time any doctor had actually ever thought to test him for Lead.
I went to her home, and initially found just a few minor suspect things, but not much really. The Oriental-style carpet was positive for a low level of Lead – in the 300 ppm range. The leather sofa was also positive for a low level of lead (also about 300 ppm), which, I explained, I only felt would be terribly concerning if it were in a home with a very young child – who might be chewing on the leather (and was not likely to cause the very high levels of Lead the doctor had found in her child’s test results.)
Then we looked at her kitchen. Again, the home was new construction – no Lead hazards in the paint or construction materials were evident. In fact, when the paint in the home was tested (by multiple methods) it was completely negative for Lead.
But her dishes were another matter…
Continue reading below the image.
Mom showed me the dishes that her children ate and drank out of with every meal. These included some Mikasa plates (about 20 years old, purchased new, shortly after their wedding, in 2000) and a set of small crystal juice glasses, including the one pictured here. I asked her when her child last used these for a meal and her response was “20 minutes before you got here.”
When tested with an XRF instrument, the glass turned out to be very high-Lead-content Leaded crystal, and the simple white-glazed Mikasa dishes that he used every day also tested positive for a very high level of Lead (you can see them here at this link.) Together, it seemed that these two sources of exposure, items used daily by the boy – many times each day, were the most probable suspect/ contributing factors generating his acute (and chronic) Lead exposure. The exposure is acute because of the level of Lead the doctor found (shown in the test result above) and chronic because the exposure has been going on for many years. This is truly among the type of situations that I would classify as a worst-case-scenario.
The tragic irony is that each day mom would give her kiddo a glass of juice (or water) in this Leaded crystal glass to help him chase down the many supplements he took several times a day to combat his symptoms. She gasped when she realized this was the case.
When (together) we figured out – given the absence of any other obvious source – it was likely the plates and the crystal glasses that were causing his exposure, we both cried a bit.
This makes me furious. It makes me furious that companies can get away with creating high-Lead products that can potentially poison families. It makes me furious that there is no accountability. And it makes me furious that there is almost no public awareness about this concern.
It’s also maddening to me that all of the healthcare providers and other resources this mama contacted were not able to help her identify the – sadly, quite common – source of her son’s cluster of symptoms (Lead-poisoning), nor have the awareness or tools to look beyond the obvious for the source(es) — and that it took me (another mom of Lead-poisoned kiddos) visiting with her in person and seeing her home and evaluating her possessions (and walking through how her kids interact with her home and contents each day) to figure this out. There should be an army of us out there doing this (helping other moms protect their children!) How can we make that happen?
I cannot tell you how many times I have met very smart, well-intentioned, college-educated parents who had no idea that their crystal glasses might be as much as 50% Lead. It’s not part of our public consciousness as a concern – and the glassware industry has gotten away with this crime (a combination of ignorance + regulatory loopholes) for centuries, really. This has got to stop.
Here are the exact readings for the glass
When tested with an XRF instrument, the small juice glass used by the boy (the glass pictured here on this post) had the following reading set:
- Lead (Pb): 351,400 +/- 25,000 ppm [that’s 35% LEAD!]
- Bromine (Br): 113 +/- 43 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 15,500 +/- 1,200 ppm
These three metals were the only metals detected in this cut crystal glass. [Note in the picture that the boy had actually etched the glass with his initials to mark it as his!] The amount of Lead that is considered unsafe (and illegal) in newly-manufactured items “intended for use by children” is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze or coating, or anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate (Leaded crystal would be considered a substrate). Dishware is not considered to be “an item intended for use by children” – and, as such, is exempt from this regulatory standard – UNLESS it is something expressly sold as an item for children (like baby dishes).
Please never give your children ANYTHING in Leaded crystal [or fancy/ornate heavy glass items you suspect might be Leaded crystal]. I always advocate for removing any and all crystal items from the home, as you never know who might wind up using it for daily use – and thereby accidentally poison themselves. This includes “grandma’s wedding crystal” – you really don’t want to hand that stuff down to your kids; you don’t want to be responsible for the potential of poisoning your grandkids or great grandkids at some point in the future. Perhaps the Jewish tradition of smashing a glass during the wedding ceremony (with the glass contained in a non-permeable fully sealed bag to contain all the chips!) is something everyone should take up – as just one way to get these sorts of items out of the functional food-use spaces in our homes!
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