Introduction (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 tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023.
April 17, 2023 — Monday
Dear pregnant mom I saw on Instagram,
You are either going to thank me for this post or you are going to think I am a creep for going to the lengths discussed below to communicate some important information with you — but either way, I hope you take the time to read this letter to the end.
Last month a Lead Safe Mama Instagram follower and friend shared an Instagram post of yours with me. In this post (which was a little video you had put together) you were washing dishes and mentioned that folks need to celebrate life every day (which I agree with wholeheartedly). You share that one way you do this is by using the “good china” as everyday china instead of saving it for special occasions. This is not a good idea, but I felt since we don’t know each other at all (and you aren’t a social media follower of my work that I am aware of) I didn’t have a good way to tactfully share this information with you.
Your post was especially distressing to me as I am the mother of disabled children who suffer the long-term impacts of acute Lead exposure — including permanent brain damage, behavioral disorders, and learning disabilities. The youngest of my four sons (he’ll be 15 in July) was Lead-poisoned in utero, with a large part of his exposure likely coming from Lead-contaminated dishes (specifically a mug with very high levels of Lead in the glaze) that I was using every single day of my pregnancy with him.
Seeing you pregnant, advocating using your vintage china for daily use — all I could think of was “I need to do something to protect her baby so what happened to my kiddos does not happen to her kiddos.”
I wanted to reach out to you in a personal way, a way that you would be less likely to dismiss, that might have an impact on you, and would give you specific and detailed information to help you protect your unborn baby. While I am well-known for not having a lot of tact (and am often perceived to be a bull in a china shop in terms of my communication style), my most effective tool for communicating (with everyone) is through science. So I decided to gather together some scientific data for you that would hopefully support your choice to make a change in your life to protect your babies, this way my communication would not be perceived as “attacking” you for using Lead-contaminated dishes every day in your home with your young family.
To this end, I looked through some of your recent Instagram posts and I saw you standing next to a china hutch in one. I zoomed in on that image and saw a china pattern I didn’t recognize and hadn’t tested before (I assume this might be your grandmother’s china since it was front and center in the hutch). I then shared a screenshot of the china pattern with some of my readers and asked them to help me identify the pattern. Once I learned the name of the pattern I went and found a dish from this pattern on eBay and purchased it. It is the Williamsburg Aviary white china with a brown bird pattern on the front. They are a Wedgwood brand product, made in England. Wedgwood is notorious for manufacturing very high-Lead dishes!
As soon as I got the china piece in the mail, I tested it (using XRF technology) to determine how much Lead was in the surface glaze of the dish. This is a big part of what I do for work, helping families to make safer choices for items in their homes by first identifying unsafe items and then making suggestions for Lead-free alternatives. For context: anything over 90 ppm Lead in the paint, glaze, or coating of a newly manufactured item made and sold today is considered illegal to be used by children (and unsafe/a potential exposure risk for Lead poisoning). There is not a total content limit for items intended for adult usage, but that’s just a regulatory oversight — not a factor based on any human health implications.
When I tested your dish it was positive for over 42,700 ppm Lead (far in excess of the 90 ppm safety threshold for children). This is an alarming level of Lead for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that these dishes are antique and worn (with decades of use) and therefore more likely to be leaching high levels of Lead into the food set upon them with normal use (and especially with regular, daily use). Separately, these dishes were likely manufactured long-before any Leach-testing standards for dishware were in place, so they were likely also hazardous to the user when they were new. The full XRF test results for the dish pictured are below.
XRF TEST RESULTS FOR THE DISHES PICTURED
Center of the food surface of the dish
- Lead (Pb): 42,700 +/- 900 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): non-detect
- Tin (Sn): non-detect
- Mercury (Hg): non-detect
- Selenium (Se): non-detect
- Barium (Ba): 457 +/- 50 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 1,057 +/- 50 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): non-detect
- Copper (Cu): 112 +/- 29 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 853 +/- 48 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 1,860 +/- 226 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 2,060 +/- 173 ppm
- Platinum (Pt): 168 +/- 98 ppm
- Bismuth (Bi): 200 +/- 52 ppm
- No other metals detected in consumer goods mode.
Hopefully you will read this and take the concern seriously. If you have read this far, I want to share some additional links with you so you have greater context for the concern:
- Here’s a link to the documentary feature film on childhood Lead poisoning (that I directed and produced)
- Here’s a link with a more detailed explanation of why Lead in pottery and dishware is a problem
- Here’s a link to an article that discusses the impacts of low level Lead exposure in children
- Here’s a link to the potential impacts (and some of the background science) on pregnant women
- Here’s a post that discusses symptoms of Lead exposure in adults
Now that you’ve read this far — I implore you to consider the following next steps:
- Please immediately stop using your vintage china as everyday china.
- If you don’t have any Lead-free china alternatives (modern, clear, undecorated/unpainted glass is always a good choice), please reach out to me and I will buy you a set of Lead-free dishes to use every day until you can find another alternative. (It will be my baby shower gift to you!)
- Get everyone in the house (your kiddos, yourself, and your husband too) tested for Lead. This is especially important given you also live in a historic home. Here’s a link with more info on that.
- Consider food-based detox (please don’t buy-in to any of the B.S. detox potions folks are selling online). You can read more about that at this link.
- If anyone in your family does test positive for Lead, consider also eliminating any potential high-Lead foods from your diet — at least until they get a negative blood Lead level test. You can read more about that here.
- Let me know if you have any questions! (Text me: 415-609-3182 & let me know it’s you and I will do my best to respond ASAP.)
Thanks for taking the time and not blowing this off. I’m just trying to protect your baby (and your other kiddos too)!
Tamara Elise Rubin
Fellow Mama of 4 Kiddos
Owner — Lead Safe Mama, LLC
P.S. To Lead Safe Mama Readers: I will let you know if this mama responds to this letter. Thanks for sharing posts like these with me. We really can work together to protect all of the babies!