Originally published: June 13, 2018
Tamara Rubin is a multi-award-winning independent advocate for consumer goods safety, and a mother of Lead-poisoned children. Her infant and toddler sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in August of 2005. She began conducting independent testing of consumer goods for toxicants in 2009, and was the parent-advocate responsible for finding Lead in the popular fidget spinner toys in 2017. She uses XRF testing (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants, including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic. [bio link]
I’m super excited to now own a set of these incredibly lead-toxic mixing bowls for my “museum of lead” collection! [eBay find!, purchased for my upcoming book, “I Make Women Cry And Throw Out Their Shit!“.]
This pattern was the pattern that started it all for me, in terms of finding incredibly high lead in vintage pyrex. When I first posted about this about 5 years ago I was shocked at how high lead these were (when tested with an XRF instrument), and later I was shocked again to find out that they also tested positive with a LeadCheck swab.
What I think is excellent is that these readings are very close to the readings I got when I tested a similar item from this pattern years ago. The numbers are replicable. As with any scientific process, being able to replicate results is very important. If you can find the same values (for total XRF detectible lead content) on similar bowls and pieces with the same pattern, then it is a pretty solid educated guess that all of the pieces with this pattern will have similar lead levels.
To learn more about XRF testing, Click HERE.
As you can see from the second picture (above), the leaded coating does wear off over time… and where do the little bits go? Where does the chipped or worn off material go when you nest the bowls? Where do the bits go when you wash the bowls? Do you wash the bowls when you take them off the shelf (after they have been put away stacked/ nested?) I doubt it.
Here’s the breakdown of XRF levels for this pattern…
White Floral Pattern of Larger Mixing Bowl
- Lead (Pb): 109,900 +/- 3,100 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 1,042 +/- 60 ppm
- Barium (Ba): 260 +/- 93 PPM
Dark Green Base of Larger Mixing Bowl
- Lead (Pb): 70,000 +/- 2,500 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 992 +/- 73 ppm
- 1,642 +/- 440 ppm chromium (Cr)
Plain White Milk Glass (Bottom) of Larger Mixing Bowl
- Lead (Pb): 190 +/- 27 ppm
For context: the amount of lead that is considered toxic for a child in a modern toy (in the paint or coating) is anything 90 ppm lead or higher. This paint is more than 1,000 times that amount of lead and it is a vessel used for food preparation. As a result (and because these items test positive instantly with reactive agent swab testing) I discourage any food use applications for these vintage Pyrex items and I would prefer not to see them in homes with children at all (the ones I have purchased for my book are locked up in my shed so kiddos cannot get to them!)
The white flowers are the highest lead likely for two reasons:
- There are multiple layers of paint for the flowers, so the paint there is thicker and tests positive for higher levels of lead and
- Lead-white is the base color and it has not been diluted with other colorants.
- Also important to note…If you tested this paint in a lab by scraping it off of the bowl it would likely come in with a much higher level of lead because the level would not be diluted by also reading the substrate (the low-level lead milk glass) underneath.
Additional point to note: The level of lead in the milk glass on this particular piece is lower than many pieces I have tested. I have seen the milk glass come in from around this range all the way up through 2,000 ppm and higher.
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My kitty (Bobby) got excited when I put the bowls out on the table to photograph them… and NO we don’t feed our kitty in vintage lead painted bowls!