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
Here’s a link to the Facebook post in question, please read the comments – for fun!
(& comment too if you are so inclined!)
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.
Tim Pye says
Of course, XRF testing has its place and so does leach testing. XRF shows how much lead is in something and leach testing show how much comes out. New products should not contain lead, but older products might. Consumers will be better informed if they have the results of both forms of testing. Why not aspire to further inform your readers by accepting the place for leach testing and seek to find ways to do it.
I invite you to do the leach testing for all the products here on the blog. I invite you to find the funding for that as well. I have a storage unit full of hundreds of items that you could start with. Please fly out to Portland and make arrangement to come do leach testing of all of these items on your own dime. Thank you.
You clearly missed the entire point of this post.
I can barely feed my family. I have put my mortgage payments on hold for three months to cover the cost of the XRF testing I do so I can keep this work going during difficult times. You comment so often and sometimes I really wonder what the motivation is behind your comments or if your choice to not understand my words is simply unintentional. Some who have read your comments have told me they wonder if you might have undiagnosed Aspbergers. This is not a “jab” or a “put down” but a serious consideration given the bent of most of your comments and communications about my work.
Please re-read the post and reconsider your comment.
An analogy that maybe works better for you: You live in England – but I want you to do advocacy in China and all it needs to be done in Mandarin – why aren’t you doing that Tim? I don’t understand why you aren’t doing your advocacy in China in Mandarin?
The simple answer: you aren’t in China and you don’t speak Mandarin so it is not my place to ask you to do that.
Marisa Plemer says
Thanks for pointing out for us the KNOW BETTER, DO BETTER school of thought—I like your thinking and dedication to enlightening anyone who will listen so that we can protect ourselves and our friends and families through KNOWLEDGE! The presence of lead in objects we use daily is and should be worrisome to every REASONABLE person. I bought the white Corelle DISHWARE on Amazon that you suggested and I’m very grateful. I also ordered and sent the dishes and clear glass cups to my daughter and family. I forwarded your recommendations to friends and family too. Thank you, Tamara Rubin!
Thank you for your comment!
Tim Pye says
Perhaps you have reacted to what you think I said. I carefully used the word ‘aspire’. Would you not like to be able to leach testing? I appreciate that you cannot, but is that a reason for not wanting to? I would like to be able to help prevent lead poisoning in China and speak mandarin even if I can’t.
I also do not understand why you cannot do migration testing of a sort to see how much lead comes out of an item. Could you not wipe the measured surface of an item with a standard wipe and send it off for analysis at $10 a time or even analyse it with your XRF scanner after calibration? Would that be cheaper than your XRF? Surely, more information means being more informed.
My motivation in commenting is to encourage you to aspire to do a better job and provide a even better service. I am also concerned that by only doing XRF testing you may frighten people, including me, when there may not actually be any significant risk of exposure from an item.
I am willing to tell you, and any one reading, that I have been diagnosed with autistic spectrum disorder or Asperger’s if you like. This might have lead toxicity as an etiology. I certainly remember my father burning old paint. This means that incomplete evidence bothers me and I seek scientific veracity. I would ask that you do not dismiss my comments, but use them, and me, to help you improve. You are very good, but please have some humility and recognise that continuous learning and improvement is the best way to go.
Peace, love and understanding.
I suggest you aspire to have a non profit that offers free lead testing and advice to the entire country! Oh wait, you tried that and were quite good at it until the state of Oregon decided to falsely accuse you of stealing public insurance benefits and even though they were proven wrong and you are innocent, the consequences have ravaged your work and aspirations. Shoot. I think aspiring to still do this work despite the lack of compensation (!!!!!) is huge. Thank you! How many of us have taken up other work because what we were aspiring for couldn’t pay the bills and we have a family to feed and clothe and house? I for one will admit to that.
Thank you! Things were on track to pay the bills until CoViD-19 hit. Hopefully something will happen to change the tides. If Facebook would stop censoring ALL health related information (because they are afraid of misinformation spread in certain areas) that would be a good start! In the meantime I will continue to focus on other platforms. The beauty behind (the horrible paradigm of) website advertising is that IF we can reach enough momentum where enough people are reading the blog… the work will pay for itself quickly. Keep sharing!
Justone Lead-Soldier says
I just spent half an hour composing a comment, but the artificial intelligence on this web site says I have repeated myself! So I have used a different name an email…
Indeed, Tamara’s heroic work has much that I admire and her selfless dedication to helping families, and all of us, deserves recognition at an international level such as The Nelson Mandela Award for Health Promotion. Perhaps you can organise a nomination.
Despite giving everything to her work, Tamara cannot do it all on her own with the tools she has. Tamara has her speciality, which is part of the fight to eliminate lead toxicity, but to win the war needs many more people and a variety of test methods that will be best achieved at a governmental level across all the countries of the world. We need to work bottom and top down to achieve reductions in lead toxicity.
The false accusations made by the State of Oregon appear to have resulted from problems in accountancy at the Lead Safe America Foundation. Having previously found malpractice at another non-profit, the prima facia assumption was that LSAF was another case. It is tragic pity that this happened and impacted Tamara and her family so badly and we have to be very grateful for her amazing perseverance.
Having said all that, I do not see why we should not ask questions about the techniques that Tamara uses and suggest alternatives or improvements. That is supporting Tamara’s work, not at all discrediting it.
Let’s all share the skills and knowledge we have to prevent lead poisoning in the best way we can. That’s aspirational.
Deb O. says
Tim et al, I believe that you will find many businesses, non-profits, foundations that have,make, offer a single purpose approach to whatever problem they are interested in stopping, curing, bringing to light. They do what they are prepared to do, trained to do, can afford to do. Tamara knows what she is doing, and does it well with the resources she has available.
As for the value of XRF testing–it provides information regarding the potential for lead poisoning. Leach testing at the time of manufacture is only valid for that time. A dish or a coffee cup that has been used for years, run through dish washers, exposed to acidic foods or chemicals, developed chips, crazing, cracks it is no longer the same as when it was first leach tested at the time of manufacture. It is now quite likely exposing (leaching) people who use it to the lead content. A dish that contains lead and never leachs, but is dropped on the floor and broken will spread lead dust that will be difficult to fully clean up–it only takes a very small amount of lead dust to damage a small child. WHY would any one want to take that chance? All I need to know is that the item contains lead, knowing that it is a ticking time bomb waiting (perhaps decades) to cause harm.
Thank you for commenting, Deb.
Tim Pye says
Dear Deb O,
I agree that if an item has no lead in it then no lead can come out. Tamara does a great job at testing products and shares their lead content with us. Although Tamara works hard at this, she can still only sample a very small proportion of the ceramic, or other, items in the world – especially ones made in the past. What are we to do? Throw away every ceramic item in the world and start again with lead-free versions. That is not a practical solution to lead exposure. We need a compromise that deals with the worst, first.
Leach testing can show us what items are really causing lead exposure – especially if that includes old, worn items. Focusing on potential for exposure seems, to me, to be less effective than looking at actual risk. Tamara says that leach testing is too expensive, but does not give us any idea of cost when compared to XRF testing.
I don’t think XRF and leach testing are like ice-cream and lobster salad, more like two flavours of ice-cream.
Do you actually know that a broken disk will release lead dust than cannot simply be cleaned up with a wet wipe? Have you ever measured the amount of lead released with before and after cleaning measurements?
Thank you for continuing the discussion. I think we all, including governments and industries, have much to learn about how best to mitigate against lead exposure and poisoning.