For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (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).
November 10, 2021 — Wednesday
If you are new here (new to the Lead Safe Mama website), you might be surprised by the headline for this piece. If you have been following this work for years, however, it will come as no surprise at all that Pottery Barn is making consumer goods for people to use in their homes that test positive for very high (and even dangerous) levels of Lead.
In my work helping families of Lead-poisoned children (around the country), I often visit their homes in person and use XRF technology to test the objects in their environment that their children might interact with on a daily basis. This includes dishes, kitchenware, toys, collectibles, carpets – and yes, furniture and decor. I started using XRF technology to test consumer goods back in February of 2009, and as I approach my 13th anniversary of being immersed in this specific niche, there is little that surprises me anymore.
Pottery Barn is (and always has been) at the top of my “shit list” for irresponsible companies — specifically, companies that continue to use Lead in products they exclusively sell and manufacture, in spite of the fact that they obviously — based on their history and the current range of product offerings — know better. Here’s an article discussing the list of stores I will not shop at, and Pottery Barn is right up there with Tiffany & Co., and Williams Sonoma (companies that continue to sell Lead-contaminated products for use in our homes well into the 21st century — even though it is well documented that there is no safe level of Lead exposure for humans).
Pottery Barn’s transgressions are especially egregious because they have a reputation (self-created — a narrative from their marketing team, no doubt) for selling non-toxic options, and doing things that are “good for the planet”. This is not to say that they do not engage in the practices they tout on their website (as “sustainable,” “good for people,” etc.), but that in addition to these good business practices, they simultaneously engage in the incredibly — unconscionably — BAD practice of continually manufacturing (or sourcing/branding) products made with high levels of Lead. A truly sustainable company that has “the planet” and “the people” in mind would not use LEAD in ANY products, PERIOD. Whereas Pottery Barn welcomes these heavily-Leaded products into their regular product lines — and, in the case of the mirror pictured above, these sometimes even become some of their best sellers.
Here are some of the greenwashing propaganda messages on Pottery Barn’s website today:
The sustainability tab on their website:
The “Our Values” tab on their website:
Ok…Yes, planting trees is good. Thank you, Pottery Barn. Now stop selling products with ANY LEAD and especially stop selling products with HIGH LEVELS OF LEAD! By manufacturing and selling these Lead-contaminated products you are creating a situation where your customers are bringing Lead into their homes (unknowingly, unwittingly — and specifically on the assumption that your products are not toxic, because of your (false, manufactured, contrived, greenwashing reputation as a trusted leader in “greener” product manufacturing!
But that’s not the bigger problem…
The problem is much, much bigger than selling Lead-contaminated products to families… They are also DIRECTLY CAUSING the pollution and contamination of our planet (our air, our water, our soil, and our homes and communities) by contributing to the demand for the mining and refining of Lead for their Lead-contaminated products — from salt shakers to dishes, to the mirror pictured here. How can they possibly claim to be a sustainable company with THE PEOPLE and THE PLANET in mind when they are causing pollution of the planet with one of the most potent neurotoxins known to man?
And with that, below I present to you the XRF test results of the mirror pictured in this article… a mirror I found in the home of a little boy who has a history of Lead poisoning. Mama buys products from Pottery Barn, thinking they are safer — and specifically assuming they are Lead-free — which was, sadly, a false assumption. And while in the specific case of this mirror hanging on the wall, the Lead in the components is unlikely to directly cause the poisoning of a child in a home, that is not the point, here. The point is misdirection of messaging and (in a sense) false advertising. People think ALL of Pottery Barn’s products are non-toxic (not just the ones they specifically advertise as non-toxic) because of the greater messaging in their advertising and on their website. This is not ok. Their designers and the people who source their materials also clearly know at this point what it takes to source non-toxic options – and that makes their choices to use/allow Lead in some products that much more offensive.
XRF test results are science-based, accurate, and replicable [this is not “woo”]
This is the test result for the florets on the mirror (the decorative floral elements at each cross-section of the mirror). The main metal components also tested positive for Lead above levels considered to be safe for use by children.
- Lead (Pb): 95,200 +/- 900 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 396 +/- 50 ppm
- Mercury (Hg): non-detect
- Bromine (Br): non-detect
- Chromium (Cr): 3,265 +/- 530 ppm
- Vanadium (V): 31,500 +/- 1,400 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 3,593 +/- 356 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 48,700 +/- 700 ppm
Note: Cadmium is a known carcinogen (considered toxic to children at levels above 40 ppm) and Lead is considered toxic to children at 90 ppm and up “in items intended for use by children” (which this mirror is not, and – as such – this is not regulated in this way, and thus is not considered illegal in any way, shape, or form.)
And again — this is a BEST SELLER on their website. PLUS, it is NOT CHEAP (selling at nearly $600)! Below is a screenshot showing this mirror on the Pottery Barn site THIS week — with a “BESTSELLER” banner flag — and the $599.00 price tag.
As always, thank you for reading these articles. Please let me know if you have any questions. I am on the road helping families and will likely update this piece with more information later today on my flight.