As part of my move to become more health conscious and get the toxic chemicals out of my life, I started researching dinnerware and the impact of it on our health. Of course I don’t buy leaded crystal, but what about average normal dishware? I cut out plastic as an option because I don’t want any of those chemicals leaching into my system. So I started investigating normal ceramic and porcelain dishware. The first thing I found is that the FDA and states do regulate the amount of lead and cadmium that can be contained in dishware. But it was a little alarming to see that if a company’s manufacturing practices are within regulation guide lines, their dishes can be labeled “lead free”. So what that means is that even if dishes are labeled “lead free” that does NOT mean that they are 100% free of lead. It just means that they have little enough lead that it falls within the guidelines. And it’s all legal. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in having any lead in my dishes.
There are several circumstances whereby lead and cadmium can leach from the plate into your system. These include:
- Washing dinner in a dishwasher
- Microwaving dinnerware
- Putting acidic foods on the dinnerware
So basically if you use a dishwasher, use a microwave and/or eat tomatoes, you could easily be leaching lead and cadmium into your body. I would imagine that covers around 99.9% of the U.S. population.
What are the dangers of lead?
First off, once you have ingested lead, the FDA estimates than an adult will absorb around 11% of the lead ingested, and for kids it can range from 30% to 75%. It should also be noted that once in your system, lead hangs around for a long time. Lead’s half-life is 20 years, so that means that in twenty years from now, half of the lead that you absorb today will still be there in your body wrecking havoc on your system. That’s not good. And the dangers of lead in a human’s system are vast. It is a toxin that can affect reproduction, the kidneys, the bones, the nervous system, the circulatory system, and just about every system there is. Lead contamination has been linked with brain damage, mental retardation, behavioral problems and even death.
The use of lead has been banned in many products including paint and toys. We now fill our tanks with unleaded gasoline. So it seems a little insane that our government still allows its use in our dishware. Something we put our food on, which we then put in our mouths and eat.
What are the dangers of cadmium?
Unfortunately cadmium isn’t any better for our bodies than lead is. Cadmium is also toxic in even low levels and can lead to all of the problems that lead does. That’s because once it gets into your system it’s free to wreak havoc on all your systems. Cadmium poisoning can lead to any of the following: kidney failure, reproductive damage, bone weakening, heart and lung problems, and breathing problems.
Why are lead and cadmium still used?
So you may be asking yourself “If lead and cadmium are so dangerous, why are they still used in dishware?” That is an excellent question. The answer is because they make our dishes pretty. They have been used for centuries in the glazes and bright colors that make our dishware festive. In olden days, they didn’t know that it was toxic; however, we cannot claim ignorance as our defense. At this point we can choose: do I want bright, pretty color on my dishware that could potentially harm me and my family or do I want healthy dishware that won’t poison us?
What kind of dishware should I use?
After searching endlessly to try to find healthy dishware, I basically came up with the sad fact that all dishes with glazes and color are going to have some level of toxic ingredients in them. Dinnerware from certain countries like Mexico and China seem to be more dangerous than others. But I still don’t like the idea that each time I eat I could be adding a dash of lead and cadmium to my dinner. The answer? Glassware. Plain and simply clear glass dishes seem to be the answer. I found two manufacturers that I am trying out. I ordered my glasses from Hercuglass who have a process to strengthen the glass and make it resistant to chipping. I then ordered my dishes and bowls from Duralex USA, a subsidiary of a French company who has making glassware since 1945. There is no need to use lead or cadmium in glass making because there are no shiny bright colors. As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather have plain and healthy dishes than pretty and toxic ones.