For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a 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. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023.
Alternate Title: Hey, CORELLE (Instant Brands)… “Were you lying then, or are you lying now?” (Maybe a little of both? See the history of their statements on the subject, below.)
After historically flat-out denying they ever used Lead in the glazes of their dishware (see communications below), Corelle claimed in their most recent statements (statements made by representatives for their new parent company, “Instant Brands”) that they are aware Lead was used in the surface decorations of their vintage dishes but that these dishes do not leach unsafe levels of Lead; and that — in fact (based on their “third-party” testing, which they have not made public) their vintage dishes are safe to use for “every-day dinnerware.” Spoilers: The blanket statement that their vintage dishes do not leach Lead is false. TLDR concerns? Watch the one-minute video under section #2 below and then skip to the “In Conclusion” statement (Section #11) at the bottom of this article.
Below are screenshots of Corelle’s recent responses to customers/ Lead Safe Mama readers who have voiced concerns. Continue reading below these images for a dissection (and dismantling) of their argumentation that the dishes are safe for food use purposes.
May 27, 2022 response to a Lead Safe Mama reader
from Corelle/Instant Brands
about Lead in their vintage dishware.
June 1, 2022 response to a Lead Safe Mama reader
from Corelle/Instant Brands
about Lead in their vintage dishware.
July 27, 2022 response to a Lead Safe Mama reader
from Corelle/Instant Brands
about Lead in their vintage dishware.
August 8, 2022 response to a Lead Safe Mama reader
from Corelle/Instant Brands
about Lead in their vintage dishware.
An apropos (if ever-so-slightly sound-edited (-; ) video clip from the film “Witness for the Prosecution” (1957 film):
“The question is (Corelle): were you lying then, or are you lying now?
(Or are you not, in fact, a chronic and habitual liar!?)”
Here’s a little (59-second) video to provide some context (and a bit of a summary) for the following article. (A transcript of this video follows the video, and then you can read the full article below.)
@leadsafemama_2022 #VintageCorelle #CorelleDishes #CorelleMeadow #ToxicDishes #LeadedDishes #VintageDishes #UnsafeAtAnyLevel #GreenWashing ♬ original sound – leadsafemama_2022
Here’s a quick transcription (with a few minor edits for clarification) of the audio from the TikTok video embedded above
“Corelle has said that these vintage Leaded dishes don’t leach Lead. If they don’t leach, they won’t test positive with a LeadCheck® swab. Here is a LeadCheck® swab, and there’s the liquid and the powder. Crack. Crack. Shake. You squeeze it on and you rub it. If it turns red or pink, then there’s Lead. It’s pink, right away. That means these vintage Corelle DO leach under certain circumstances (where there’s acids, or vinegar, lemon juice — anything like that). My assertion is that the statement from Corelle about them doing leach-testing did not include testing on vintage dishes that had previously actually been in service (in regular use) in a home (with the anticipated use and wear that actual dishes in service for decades may be expected to have) — and only (likely) included leach-testing on new-condition vintage Corelle dishes — because if they had done appropriate testing (if they had actually tested vintage Corelle dishes that had been in use/in service by a typical American family, for decades), they would have found that (in fact) they DO leach Lead!”
From the United States Food & Drug Administration (FDA)
Based on the FDA statement below, it can be reasonably extrapolated that the positive test result shown in the video (in section #2 above) indicates that the lead on the surface of the vintage Corelle dish pictured is leachable/bioavailable.
Published: Tuesday — August 9, 2022
It’s hard to know where to start with this…
There are quite a few sentiments and facts I would like to share by way of introduction, before getting into the meat of the matter:
First and foremost, I need to address the contradiction that new (non-vintage), plain white (no painted decorations of any kind) Corelle brand products have been one of my preferred Lead-free options for dishware, to date. Given my stance — in most cases — on other brands where, if they have a history of creating Leaded or otherwise toxic products, AND if they do not take any responsibility for their historic legacy and past transgressions, I refuse to recommend any products from that company; the fact that I persistently recommend (contemporary, plain white) Corelle as an easily accessible Lead-free/toxicant-free, relatively inexpensive option is a seeming contradiction in general policy.
I acknowledge that — in a way — I have given Corelle a de-facto “free pass” over the years while condemning other companies with a similar history. I did this simply because:
- The Lead Safe Mama readership has consistently requested recommendations for “go to” products like that — products that are reliably Lead-free, and
- modern Corelle plain white dishes have been an inexpensive Lead-free brand to recommend.
But in light of the recent (May through August of 2022) misleading/greenwashing statements by Corelle (in response to my work testing many of their vintage dishes sent in by readers, with results confirming toxic heavy metals in so many of their historic — and even some fairly recent products), that recommendation stops here.
Given the company’s disappointing (and frankly dishonest) recent behavior, from here on out I will no longer be recommending ANY Corelle products. I am ceasing to recommend this brand based on purely ethical and political considerations. I plan to remove all references and links to Corelle products (as a safer choice) in the coming months — unless/until they take full responsibility for their history, including correcting their inaccurate/misleading/gaslighting communications to their customers regarding the presence of, and dangers from, high levels of Lead on the food surfaces of many of their vintage products. Their most recent statements are so blatantly false, unethical, and misguided that I can simply currently no longer continue to recommend any of their products.
Before I get into the specific misguided and false statements of Corelle/Instant Brand’s recent communications with some of my readers, I want to take a moment to explain the concern (which is summarized in the quick one-minute video above).
The information I am about to summarize has been linked on every page of this website for many years — so it is not *new*, nor difficult to find. This article (which goes into the issue in detail) is pinned at the top of every page of this website under the menu header, “Stuff with Lead.” It’s the first link in that menu, under the shortcut “Pottery.”
- The concern has never been for new-condition dishware.
- The concern has never been for new-in-box dishware that “meets or exceeds” all regulatory standards (including limits for leach-testing of heavy metals) at the time of manufacture.
- The concern has ALWAYS been articulated as a concern for the mere presence of (absurdly neurotoxic) Lead (and other metallic neurotoxicants) in any food-use items in our home (especially dishes that we may use every single day to feed our families).
- The concern, as specifically articulated in the more-detailed article linked above, is that if a dish contains Lead on the food surface, and if that dish is used daily for years — or even decades — then the food surface of that dish eventually begins to degrade/wear (whether or not it passed leach-testing at the time of manufacture).
- Even if you cannot see the wear, the micro-particulate heavy metals that do wear off, wear off into the food being eaten (from the plate, bowl, platter, cup, or other dishes). By the time it gets to the point where you may notice the wear, it is too late!
- All government agencies (and scientific bodies) agree there is no safe level of Lead exposure for human beings.
- Once a dish begins to wear, it will (at some unspecified point in its lifetime) no longer meet leach-testing standards (in fact it is likely and probable that it will FAIL a full, proper modern leach-test).
- There is no legislative requirement for corporate accountability for historic products. Said another way, if a company creates a product that eventually becomes dangerous to use at some unspecified point in the future (10, 20, or 30 years after manufacture) they are not held responsible for the impacts of that now-unsafe product. This is why (over, and over, and over again) companies repeat the (irrelevant) refrain that “We have always met all applicable standards at the time of manufacture.” This statement means literally NOTHING when it comes to Lead-containing products (and specifically Lead-containing glazes on dishware), which were often manufactured at a time when NO SUCH APPLICABLE STANDARDS OR PROTECTIVE LEGISLATION EVEN EXISTED — let alone combining that fact with the afore-mentioned issue of degradation/wear!
Section #7) TLDR
The following bullet points summarize the above-mentioned concerns (from the video in section #2), as they relate to Corelle’s recent statements about Lead in their historic products (in the emails from Corelle at the top of this article).
- Corelle states that their vintage dishes are safe to use (“…feel free to use them for everyday dinnerware“).
- They claim that they subjected them to leach-testing — and proved the vintage dishes were safe — but they provide no specific test results (or even any evidence of this claimed leach-testing). Specifically, I would like to know:
- which dishes (styles/patterns) were tested
- how many different styles and patterns were tested
- exactly how old the dishes (each pattern tested) were
- from where they obtained the dishes (did they pull these dishes out of their own storehouse or company display)
- and were they “new old stock” examples of their vintage patterns — or were they examples that had been actually used daily in a home for 20, 30, or 40 years or more
- who (specifically) conducted the testing for them
- what were the specific parameters of the testing done
- and what were the exact (numerical values of the) test results?
- Many of these (well-used) vintage Corelle dishes most likely do leach unsafe levels of Lead. Per the quote from the FDA in Section #4 above, because these dishes test positive with a reactive agent home test kit (as demonstrated by the video in Section #2 above) they are likely leaching unsafe levels of Lead and should not be used for food use purposes (making Corelle’s claim in point 2 above false).
- Corelle blatantly lied and stated that the decorative elements of the dishes are “sealed”/”encapsulated” in a layer of glass. If you run your finger over the patterns on most of the vintage Corelle dishes (if not all of them) the decorative elements can clearly be touched and felt as a texturally distinct raised pattern on the dish — this is a good indicator that it is not “sealed under glass.” This is then easily and dramatically confirmed by the fact that the solution in the LeadCheck® swab reacted with the surface decoration in the example I tested in the video above clearly demonstrating how there is NO WAY to legitimately state that it is “sealed” (under a layer of glass or other non-porous material). If the Lead were “sealed’ it would not react with the reagent in the LeadCheck® home test kit. The LeadCheck® kits ONLY react if the Lead is AVAILABLE on the surface of the item tested.
- Another blatant lie is that “only small amounts of Lead” were used in the decorative elements on the vintage pieces. Puh-leaze! This is a mind-numbingly false statement — the amount of Lead that is legally considered unsafe in the paint, glaze, or coating of a newly-manufactured item intended for use by children is 90 parts per million and above, and many of these vintage Corelle pieces test positive for Lead levels in the 20,000 ppm range (and even higher)! There is no planet, and no universe where 20,000 ppm Lead (+) could be considered to be a “small amount,” when the legal maximum limit (that is universally agreed upon to be protective of children’s health) is 90 ppm!
So, to reiterate what I said in the video: I suspect the testing Corelle/Instant Brands conducted (if in fact, they did any testing at all, given they have provided no evidence of this testing beyond their public statements) was likely done on brand-new-condition vintage products from their own product collection (products that have not been in use for the past 30, 40, or 50 years since they were manufactured), and therefore the test results they did have no bearing on whether or not the dishes one might actually find in people’s homes (dishes that have been used daily for decades) are safe. This is a logical assumption/conclusion based on my extensive knowledge of the issue, and all the data from the testing I have done on these vintage Corelle dishes myself. I expect that — were leach-testing done on vintage Corelle dish examples that have been in service in a home (with daily use) for decades — the results would be distinctly different than the proclamation of “safe” heralded by the Instant Brands folks in the e-mails above. (I also have to speculate that is possible that they perhaps intentionally chose patterns and styles that were not only in new condition but also less likely to leach with typical leach-testing protocols [for example, patterns without a design in the center of the plate — or patterns with no design at all].). Given this context, Instant Brand’s assertion that their vintage products are safe for daily use is a dangerous (incredibly irresponsible) and very concerning statement for them to make publicly.
Q. Can I use these test kits at home to determine if my Vintage Corelle has unsafe levels of Lead?
A: No, the home test kits are NOT a reliable way to test your dishes.
If your dishes do test positive using the home test kit (as the example did in my video in Section #2 above) then they are definitely unsafe to use. However, I want to reiterate a point that is discussed ad nauseam on this website: the home test kits were not designed to test dishes (only Lead-based housepaint). Here are the concerns/limitations (related to using the home test kit for dishes):
- There can be what one might articulate as “false negatives” when home test kits are used to try testing things other than housepaint — due to variations in coatings, testing conditions, perceptions/ interpretations, and testing technique.
- The low threshold of detection of the home test kits is 600 ppm Lead (which may be considered “low” for a Lead-based house paint — but not for a food-use item that might be used by children!). So an item might test “negative” with a home test kit but may still be “positive” for Lead at a level above the 90 ppm Level of concern for items intended for use by children;
- and finally (when tested using XRF technology), many of these vintage Corelle dishes also test positive for other metallic toxicants — for which there are no home test kits (e.g. Cadmium, Antimony, Arsenic, and Mercury).
For these reasons, it is simply better to assume these (vintage) dishes are not safe than to assume they are safe, based solely on using a home test kit; there are just too many variables. IMPORTANT NOTE: in the work of Lead Safe Mama, LLC we use XRF testing (the same testing methodology used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to determine the presence of toxicants (heavy metals). I used the home test kit for this video to specifically refute Corelle/Instant Brand’s claims as they related to bioavailability, etc. To see the exact XRF test results for the dish pictured, click here.
How dangerous are these dishes?
Should we really stop using them?
Can they definitely harm my family?
I want to state here that I am always very careful in my word choice in articles here at LeadSafeMama.com and it was never my intention to definitively assert that these vintage Corelle dishes might leach Lead. If you take a look at my articles on this historically — I have never once (prior to today) asserted bioavailability for this brand (because there has not been enough independent science to fully support this claim given the extensive range of vintage Corelle products), but rather I have taken a more conservative (less alarmist) approach that we should use the principle of #FirstDoNoHarm, and #KnowBetterDoBetter. I have stated that in the absence of fully transparent and (independent) confirmed appropriate leach-testing on the vintage dishware, simply set them aside and stop using them for food-use purposes until further independent testing can be done. My intention (as always) has been to inform the public that these (and other vintage dishes) have Lead on the food surface and that they very well may not be safe.
However, in light of these ridiculous responses from Instant Brands/Corelle (combined with the results of the reactive agent home test kit shown in the video in Section #2 above), now I want to take this to the next level and inject some fully-transparent, independently-verifiable thorough and rigorous science by having a respected lab conduct leach-testing on some of the vintage samples of Corelle that I have in storage (stand by — I will do that as soon as I can). All of the samples I have retained were actual daily-use dishes used by families for decades, so testing on these dishes would give a much truer representation of the concern than what I expect was used as the parameters for dishes Corelle claims to have tested.
Some more lies (just to call them out, because we can).
I do want to say, the one EXCELLENT thing that came out of the recent communications from Corelle/Instant Brands is that they DO finally admit to having used Lead on their dishware (even though they try to diminish that admission and hide it in a bunch of nonsense and greenwashing!). So with that statement clearly articulated in e-mails from June, July, and August (at the top of this article), I will share with you this one — that a reader sent me last year (November 2021):
This lovely screenshot includes TWO blatant lies:
- “We have never added Lead in any of our Corelle dinnerware” and
- “We have never advised against using any pattern.“
Lie #1 is exposed by their subsequent admission that they used Lead (in the four e-mails at the top of the page), and Lie #2 is exposed by their message to my reader, Jennifer in Michigan (back in December of 2019 — the message that started off this flurry of activity in the first place):
Section #11) Oh boy… you made it this far! You deserve an ‘In Conclusion…!”
- Vintage Corelle has high levels of Lead in the decorative elements.
- Corelle/Instant Brands has confirmed the use of Lead in the decorative/painted elements on their dishware.
- Reactive agent home test kits have confirmed that the Lead in vintage Corelleware is likely bioavailable.
- XRF testing has confirmed the levels of Lead in this vintage dishware to be extremely high (at levels far above what would be allowed in products intended for use by children today).
- In light of the recent and repeated false public statements by Corelle, I am going to report them to the Consumer Product Safety Commission and make an unprecedented request (due to the ubiquitous nature of these products in homes across the United States combined with the company’s persistent false/misleading recent public statements) that they demand a recall for the vintage products from this manufacturer.
Thanks for reading. Please let me know if you have any questions. I will do my best to answer them personally as soon as I have a moment.
Owner — Lead Safe Mama, LLC