Introduction to Tamara (for those new to the site!)
Tamara Rubin lives in Portland, Oregon and is a child health advocate, author, documentary filmmaker, and mother of four sons. Her young men are now 24, 18, 15, and 12. She has won multiple national awards for her Lead-poisoning prevention advocacy work (including two from U.S. government agencies). As of November 15, 2020, she has had more than 1.5 million unique individual readers visit her blog in the past 12 months (with over 3.5 million page views!) – from more than 200 countries (per Google Analytics) around the world!
It is with the help, support, and participation of these readers that she conducts and reports on independent testing of consumer goods for toxicants (Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Antimony), using high-accuracy X-Ray Fluoresence analysis (read more about that here). She goes by #LeadSafeMama on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and has over 2,500 separate posts of information (mostly consumer goods test results) on her blog at LeadSafeMama.com.
Tamara’s advocacy work has been mentioned in print in The New York Times; the New York Post; Mother Jones; Parents Magazine; Vice.com; MNN.com; TruthOut; WebMD; the Huffington Post,;USA Today; Grok Nation, and more (too many outlets to list!) – and in other media (T.V. and radio), on the Today Show; Kids in the House; Al Jazeera English; The Voice of Russia; CBS This Morning, and through news stories on CBS; ABC; NBC, and even Fox News – as well as in countless podcasts and other interviews.
Posted: Friday – December 18, 2020
I registered at Tiffany & Co. for my wedding in 1994.
I used to LOVE Tiffany & Co., and all that I assumed went with the name and their products (design, style, quality) – but in recent years I have been nothing but disappointed by the brand [a brand that I once romanticized and glamorized!]
I actually registered at Tiffany’s for my wedding (to my ex-husband, Mark – back in 1994)! In 1994 the place settings were outrageously expensive (I think they were about $240 for one place setting of dishes – one dinner plate, one salad plate, one bread plate, one saucer and a teacup!), and several of my friends chipped in together, in groups – with each group buying just one place setting for us. Now [December, 2020] the dish pictured below (a small bread and butter dish) is $99 on replacements.com — for just a single dish from my wedding pattern! At the time, I had no idea this china I was registering for, china that was to be a “lifetime heirloom for my family”, was covered with incredibly high-Lead-glaze — on the food-contact surface of the dishes, no less!
This was my wedding china (Tiffany’s Frank Lloyd Wright Imperial pattern).
Continue reading below the image.
In 2011 I had a dream
Shortly after I founded the [now-defunct] Lead Safe America Foundation in 2011, I contacted Tiffany & Co. about an idea I had: I had always understood Tiffany silver items to be the purest silver; if you had something sterling silver from Tiffany’s, you could be assured it was the highest quality…my idea at the time was that Tiffany & Co. could produce a “Lead-Safe” ribbon pin (like the pink breast cancer pin) in their pure sterling silver — symbolizing the fight to rid the world of Lead. I even designed the logo for the Foundation with a silver-colored ribbon to represent this idea. The concept of having Tiffany & Co. custom make us sterling silver “Lead Safe” lapel pins never materialized [and – in light of Tiffany’s track record selling Leaded products – in retrospect, that was probably a good thing!]
Fast forward to 2013… I found that Tiffany & Co was selling Leaded piggy banks!
Continue reading below the image.
In 2013, I went to a friend’s house and tested her daughter’s piggy bank (the one pictured in the image above), using XRF technology. It was positive for 23,200 ppm Lead. The amount of Lead that is considered unsafe (and is illegal) in items intended for use by children (specifically for items manufactured post-2008) is anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze, or coating. This particular item was an elephant–shaped ceramic coin bank (made in Italy, exclusively for Tiffany & Co.), obviously intended for use by CHILDREN and designed to be attractive to children! (You can read more about that here.)
The short summary of that incident is this:
- I contacted Tiffany and told them what I found.
- They responded that (in essence) “this was not a concern to them”, because their piggy banks “are not designed or sold as items intended for use by children”(!) They went on to explain that they consider these items to be “decor“, and therefore not covered by the current Federal regulatory standards for “items intended for use by children”! Please point me to the universe where pastel-polka-dots-painted, cute-animal-shaped coin banks are not intended for use by children!
- This interaction put Tiffany & Co. on my #ShitList (and specifically, squarely, and prominently landed them on the list of stores I will *never* patronize, which you can read more about on this link.)
- Tiffany has since – silently – corrected the piggy bank problem – for all of the related designs… polka-dot-painted elephants, bunnies, pigs, etc. (evidence that they realized it was actually a problem!)…
- I am fairly certain, however, that prior to (or since) the manufacturing shift for these items they never made a prominent public announcement that their adorable coin banks had been glazed with unsafe levels of Lead (I never saw any public announcement, at least!) AND I think it is also highly likely they never sent any kind of notice to customers who bought the Leaded versions of the products to inform them that it was unsafe to be used by children.
Fast forward to 2020…
In spite of the opportunity to change things across the board, Tiffany & Co. has STILL not learned their lesson!
I recently found a child’s bracelet from Tiffany’s that tested positive for low levels of Lead [I haven’t had a moment to post about it yet, but it is in the queue of “blog posts to write ASAP”], and so Tiffany & Co. (& their unethical business practices – as evidenced by the piggy bank story above, and related lax standards, and lack of transparency) has been on my mind recently.]
The other day a friend in Portland shared on her Facebook feed about the fact that Tiffany & Co. sells a “tin can sculpture” made of sterling silver (selling for $1,025!); she was commenting on how ridiculous that is as a paradigm (but noted that if someone did want to buy her a $1,000 sterling silver tin can, she would not refuse the gift!, lol).
My friend’s post prompted me to click through to Tiffany’s site to see what they are selling today — to check if their current catalogue contained any items that might have unsafe levels of Lead… and then, while I was there I saw something that was incredibly upsetting (if only from the perspective of a mother of Lead poisoned children). This upsetting thing (more about that below) was just one item in a collection of nearly 50 different items I found listed for sale today on the Tiffany & Co. website that were clearly marked as being made of “Lead Crystal.”
All of the Leaded items are pictured below (scroll down to see each of the images of Leaded items currently for sale on the Tiffany website). For those new to this page and this work, Leaded crystal items are generally between 200,000 ppm and 400,000 ppm (20% – 40%) Lead. [Again, for context to understand how toxic Lead is: 90 ppm Lead (and up) is considered unsafe in items intended for use by kids.]
If you are not yet aware of the concerns for Leaded crystal, I encourage you to read the following posts on my blog before you continue reading this post:
- My overview post about the concern for Leaded crystal.
- My post about a crystal glass that was a likely source of poisoning for a child.
- My post about the possibility of decorative crystal items creating dust on shelves.
- A post discussing what to do with your Leaded crystal if you own some already.
- The crystal category of posts on my blog.
- ….and here’s a video that shows you how to navigate my blog if you are new here.
Here’s the item that I found on the Tiffany & Co. website that was so upsetting:
Continue reading below the images
WHAT WERE YOU THINKING TIFFANY & CO.?
Tiffany is selling (or – more accurately – appears to be sold out of) a product they have named the “Lead Crystal Paint Can Ice Bucket”!
I cannot think of a better way for them to EVOKE the concept of childhood Lead poisoning embodied in a single product: a decorative PAINT CAN literally MADE of LEAD (as a primary ingredient in the product)!
Not only is this awful because do I not consider a Leaded crystal ice bucket to be safe for storing ICE (ice which, after being stored in this bucket, you ostensibly would then put in your drink!), but just WHO were they making this for? Who was Tiffany’s audience for this product —Lead paint industry executives?? In addition to being a paint can made of (probably) 30% Lead, the name of the product (purely from the linguistic / word usage perspective) has “Lead” and “Paint” with the word “crystal” inserted between them.
I don’t know, perhaps I am unique, as a parent of Lead-poisoned children, in finding this specific product particularly triggering. Hopefully some other mothers of Lead-poisoned children will chime in here with their thoughts. However, this is the product that made me decide to go ahead and write this post.
Q. “Beyond the Lead (Crystal) Paint Bucket… what’s the problem with Tiffany & Co. selling all of these Leaded products?”
A. The problem is two-fold:
Part #1 of “The Problem” – manufacturing
From one of my Leaded crystal posts linked above: “My concern for Leaded crystal goes beyond the potential issue of impacts within your home. There are also significant overarching environmental concerns for the manufacturing of Leaded crystal – a process which (by virtue of the mining, refining, and processing of Lead) can poison both the workers creating these products, and “the planet” (i.e. our habitat).”
Part #2 of “The Problem” – household use (as intended)
- NO SAFE LEVEL: All federal regulatory agencies agree that there is no safe level of Lead exposure in humans.
- LOW THRESHOLDS: Each year, more science comes together demonstrating the toxicity of Lead to humans at lower and lower thresholds.
- EXPOSURE HAZARD: Leaded crystal food-use products (glasses, decanters, platers, drink mixers) can (and often do) expose the user to a dangerous level of bioavailable Lead, regardless of what regulatory loopholes there are for products manufactured by the crystal industry (and irrespective of the double-speak the Lead crystal industry uses to try to convince customers it is safe to use crystal items for food use purposes… because, for example, the wine flows “over the crystal matrix” blah, blah, blah – total B.S. / nonsense!)
- INGESTION HAZARD: Science has (time and time again) clearly demonstrated that Leaded crystal can create an ingestion hazard with food use products (and MANY of the Tiffany & Co. products found today ARE in fact food-use products).
- DUST HAZARD: Leaded crystal can also create a Lead dust hazard when one has decorative products that are left on a shelf, a table, or a mantle.
- LEAD-FREE ALTERNATIVES: Whether or not the risk is 100% clear or 100% proven for a specific usage or application, the potential exposure is simply NOT worth the risk — especially when we know so much about this (and have for many centuries), AND also especially given there are so many INEXPENSIVE LEAD-FREE alternatives out there.
- LEARN FROM HISTORY: We have learned that in ancient time the rich were poisoned by their drinking vessels; why are we still letting industry create these toxic food use products?
From another one of my crystal posts: “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!”
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I can. With about 1.5 million readers here on the blog in the past 12 months I have been swamped with questions so I may not get to your question right away. Thank you for your patience!
Please make sure to scroll down to see all 47 images of the LEADED stuff that Tiffany & Co. has listed today on their website (some of these items are sold out – a fact which also makes my stomach turn!)
One final thought: Let’s (together) put pressure on Tiffany & Co. to remove ALL Leaded items from ALL Tiffany stores. Consumers have power. Let’s wield that power to prevent future generations (and the planet) from being poisoned by this industry giant. If Tiffany & Co. gets all the Lead out of their products, perhaps other companies will follow suit.
Scroll down to see all 47 screenshots of items being sold TODAY (December 18, 2020) on the Tiffany & Company website. Many of these are food use items. All of these are items that could be touched and interacted with by children if they were displayed in the home. While these items are all marked “Lead Crystal” none of them appear to contain ANY hazard warning about the potential health impacts of Lead.