Introduction (for those new to this website):
Tamara Rubin is a multiple federal-award-winning independent advocate for consumer goods safety and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF testing (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).
Originally written: November 1, 2013
Updated: December 28, 2019
What should I do with my Lead-contaminated dishes? Or toys, piggy banks, etc.?
Alternate title: “To Toss or Not to Toss?”
I often get asked “Well, now that we know it contains bio-available Lead, what are we supposed to do with it? Do we just put it in the trash? Or do we have to dispose of it as toxic waste?”
Please note: not all of the consumer goods that I test and post the results for contain bio-available Lead — only some do for certain — and with others it is unclear or has not been tested. In my opinion, it is not worth the risk to have these things in your home. You can read more about that HERE.
This is both a moral and ethical question — one that calls our laws, standards, collective conscience and intentions for the future into question.
I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but here are some thoughts:
1. I am working on starting a “Lead museum” — a bit of an informal collection of things I have found in my travels that contain (expected or unexpected) high levels of Lead. Please consider sending the Leaded item to me (especially if it is is small/inexpensive to ship)! This traveling museum exhibit will hopefully educate thousands of people for generations into the future once it is finished!
2. Was it recently manufactured? If so, please consider returning it. Even if what you bought was being sold as “crystal” (as an example), I am sure you did not understand the implications of drinking from Leaded crystal when you purchased it. And had you known, you likely would have purchased a similar item in unleaded glass. Returning these things to the manufacturer will help encourage more environmentally responsible manufacturing processes (and hopefully you can also get your money back).
3. Is it a building component or an antique? You have to determine if it has any value — to you or to someone else — and whether that value (as an antique [and important piece of our collective history], for example) outweighs the potential for the item to poison a child, or an adult for that matter. Can it be sealed or refinished to make it less hazardous? Will the sealing or refinishing diminish the value? Is it chipping or peeling? And yes — as a consumer (and not as a contractor) you are fully and legally allowed to dispose of these things in your everyday household trash. Could you dispose of it as hazardous waste? Probably yes. Would the hazardous waste site think you are crazy for taking an old piggy bank to their site instead of the regular dump? Probably yes. If you sell it on eBay, please disclose that it has high levels of Lead.
4. My main question is this: Is it better in our world — above, or below, ground? Even though landfill is an issue (and the potential for leaded items to impact the water table), I think given the amount of toxicity we already have in our landfills, and the considerable potential for a Leaded item to cause harm, it is better for these items to go back undergroun. That way the Lead ends up at least a little closer to where it came from. It’s not the same as putting it back in a mine, but it will give the next couple of generations the opportunity to recover their collective cognitive potential — making it possible for the young adults 20 or 30 years from now to come up with an even better solution.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts!
Originally Written: November 1, 2013
Picture below: Vintage Leaded Crazy Daisy/ Spring Blossom Green Pyrex Mixing Bowls. Click each of the images on this post to read more about these items. Thank you!