Lobster Salad is NOT Ice Cream
(but I like both of them!)
In response to the Australian KidSpot article about my work this month…
…and the more then 1,300 comments on their related Facebook post
For context: Some folks are asking about leach testing vs. XRF-testing [some are even insisting that XRF testing is “not of use” or “not relevant”, and maintain that only leach-testing is relevant (when it comes to dishes / kitchenware, specifically). This is simply not true; both types of testing are useful and relevant, and each is distinct and different from the other — serving a distinct and unique (and valuable) purpose].
Some key points:
- Lead Safe Mama, LCC does not do leach-testing [and I have never purported to do leach testing].
- This does not mean the XRF test results shared on this blog are somehow “irrelevant” or “useless”.
- XRF Test results are (in most cases) a clear indicator of potential concerns (past, current and future), when toxic heavy metals are detected.
- Said another way: fundamentally a dish (or pot or toy) cannot present ANY Lead-hazard concern if it contains no Lead, but if it does test positive for some Lead (in one or more components, using XRF technology) then it at least has the potential to cause issues (either pollution issues created with the manufacturing process or disposal of the product or potential health implications for the end user, especially for items used daily in the home) and warrants further study (and – at a minimum – caution with use, in the absence of further study.)
- Lead Safe Mama, LLC provides a public service in the preliminary screening of consumer goods (vintage and new) for toxicants (using XRF technology) to help determine if caution with use and/or further study is warranted (& to also – in some cases – help determine if companies are engaged in false advertising.)
- Readers who are critics of this work (and who are often also folks passionate about owning and collecting and using vintage cookware and kitchenware!) and who may not be intimately familiar with what we do here (and why we do what we do) frequently to take the stance that because the testing we do is not leach-testing, that it has no relevance, and they also often assert that they think we should also be doing leach-testing (or should be doing leach-testing instead of XRF-testing) here at Lead Safe Mama, LLC.
We don’t do that here, but that does not make what we do useless or irrelevant…
- If you go to an ice cream shop and ask for a lobster salad, and they don’t serve lobster salad [which also tends to be much more expensive and requires an investment in very different equipment than that required for serving ice cream], the end result is that you cannot get a lobster salad there — just ice cream. It’s still food, but just a different type of food.
- You could excoriate the people who run the business for not having lobster salad, but that will not likely change their offerings.
- You can point out – over and over – that their ice cream is not lobster salad and so you have no use for their ice cream because you WANT lobster salad – but that does not change what they do there… which is serve ice cream.
- My “ice cream shop” (woman-owned, small business in Portland, Oregon run by a multiple-Federal-award-winning childhood Lead-poisoning prevention advocate) does total content metal toxicant testing using XRF technology NOT leach-testing.
- Leach-testing and XRF-testing are completely different things – just as lobster salad and ice cream are.
- Some ice cream shops may offer both lobster salad AND ice cream [like the one I worked in when I was 15 years old in Hingham, MA!], but I would assert that most do not.
- Moreover, it is silly and counter-productive to demand a [completely different – and capital-intensive] particular service or product from a person or company who is not in the business of offering that service or product.
- If you are polite and friendly, and put in a request for Lobster salad at your favorite ice cream shop AND if they get enough of those requests AND if they get funding to expand their business – it is possible they might offer Lobster salad in the future — but the fact that they do not offer it now does not invalidate the fact that they are currently an ice cream shop selling cones and sundaes.
Here at Lead Safe Mama, LLC we do XRF-testing, NOT leach-testing
“Why we do this” is clearly articulated throughout the Lead Safe Mama website:
- It is our firm stance that companies (the manufacturer — Tupperware, in this instance) should be responsible for past products they created that contain toxic heavy metals – ESPECIALLY if those products are still in use in homes and kitchens today.
- We also believe these manufacturers should be held responsible for conducting independent leach-testing of their legacy products IF those products have been found to contain toxic heavy metals that might present a current (present-day) exposure risk to their customers. [Especially relevant for a company like Tupperware where their products are clearly and intentionally designed to “last a lifetime” and therefore likely to be in regular daily use decades after they were manufactured.]
- We feel that point #2 is especially relevant when the levels of toxicants found in products that may be used every day in the home exceed the current federal allowable limits (as detectable by XRF technology) for those particular toxicants in new consumer goods manufactured expressly for use by children. For Lead this is when Lead-levels exceed 90 ppm in the paint, glaze or coating of an item or when the levels exceed 100 ppm Lead in the substrate of an item.
- There is no fantasy world where I (as an independent advocate and mother of Lead-poisoned children – already bearing the cost of XRF testing and making those test results freely available to the public) should also be expected to cover the cost of leach-testing as well (I simply don’t do that)!
- This does not make the XRF-test results irrelevant or useless. The XRF test results give consumers information to help them make better-informed decisions and choices for their family – better informed than if they did not have this information — IN THE ABSENCE of corporations acting responsibly and taking action for their own legacy products – or current products for that matter (whether or not those products were made two years ago, or forty years ago.)
“But I think only Leach-testing is relevant!”
For those insisting that “only leach-testing is relevant, and XRF-testing has no relevance”…
Leach-testing is helpful and relevant, of course. However, it is also very costly — and more important —does not test for nor indicate the toxic metals content in any coating or substrate; It is strictly limited to testing for what may or may not be leaching (at the time of manufacture – which is normally the only time leach testing is done).
With toxicant screening using XRF-technology, identifying genuinely toxicant-free items is much easier — as is identifying the potential for an item that tests positive for heavy metals content to present a hazard – now or down the line to consumers, in normal-daily-use-as-intended — and/or to workers, during the manufacturing process (as is the concern with Cadmium-containing enamel pigments, for example). XRF testing is also obviously more feasible (and far less-expensive) than the prospect of performing leach-testing on every object ever made.
Given the presence of toxicants found via XRF-testing in vintage products – especially when there is simply no evidence clearly demonstrating that these vintage products are safe (sometimes many decades after their manufacture), we cannot be confident in the safety of these legacy products today [especially if they are old enough that they would have been manufactured before leach-testing of kitchenware was a requirement (or before leach testing was regularly monitored/ overseen/enforced).
Just because Lead Safe Mama, LLC does not do leach-testing does not make the testing / work / test results provided by Lead Safe Mama, LLC invalid. The results we share here are 100% valid, science-based, and replicable. They provide information that most consumers would not have access to otherwise and hopefully they will encourage people to better understand the role corporations have in contaminating our homes and environment.
Now, for those of you out there still droning on about leach-testing at this point: you can continue to stick your head in the sand once you have this information, but I invite you to join me in subscribing to the “Know Better, Do Better” school of thought.
The moral of the story… We really believe that, both for health and environmental reasons, the following is a no-brainer: if you can choose genuinely toxicant-free products for your family – you should; hopefully the work of Lead Safe Mama, LLC will guide you in that process.