Lead and Cadmium in Dinnerware

January 6, 2008 | 12 Comments

SengwareI’ve heard about lead in dinnerware but was never concerned about it before we had our daughter. I bought our dinnerware at least 10 years ago and just recently decided to research this topic after all the latest toy recalls due to lead. After all, we put hot food on our plates at least twice a day and our kids come into contact with possible lead more likely this way than through toys. Lead and cadmium is still commonly used in dinnerware today. Unless it is stated to be lead and cadmium free, they most likely contain both. Even though the FDA assures that the levels in dinnerware purchased in the USA are safe today, I prefer to choose a safer alternative for my family.

Keep reading to find out some astonishing facts that back my decision to choose a safer route. According to the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (CLPPB), some dishes contain enough lead to cause severe lead poisoning and this has significant health impacts. Other dishes with lower levels pose problems as the lead accumulates in the body over time and contribute to your overall lead exposure. This is of importance to us at SafBaby, because our babies will be absorbing these toxins for a longer period of time, and absorbing them at a much greater rate than us adults.

The FDA states adults absorb 11% of lead reaching the digestive tract, while children absorb between 30-75%! When lead is inhaled, up to 50% is absorbed. Lead is stored primarily in the bones where it accumulates for decades and displaces calcium. The Hazardous Substances Data Bank states the half-life for lead is around 20 years. This means whatever amount of lead you currently have in your body, in 20 years time; you will still have half of that amount. Long-term exposure of cadmium in the air, food, and water can lead to kidney disease, lung damage and fragile bones.

Lead and Cadmium from dinnerware can leach into your body by:

  • eating foods with an acid base
  • microwaving your food (The California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch advises against cooking or microwaving in dishes that may contain lead since this speeds up the lead leaching process).
  • putting them into a dishwasher (Dishwashers can damage the glazed surface of your dinnerware because of the heat and water intensity).

If you’re unsure if your china, earthenware or stoneware contains high levels of lead or cadium, you can buy testing kits from Leadcheck.com ($18.45 for an eight-swab lead test; $39.95 for eight cadmium swabs). Home testing cannot prove your dishes heavy-metal-free—it can only assure you that levels aren’t dangerously high. Be cautious with dinnerware purchased at flea markets, antiques stores and on the Internet or given to you. Glass and stoneware, unless decorated, are generally lead-free. A study published in Science of the Total Environment, found that

  • two of 28 patterns of imported dishes released lead in levels higher than the FDA allows and
  • 10 patterns released lead that exceeded California Prop 65 limits.
  • One pattern released cadmium exceeding the FDA limit.

(To find out more about CA Prop 65, check out: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/childlead/tableware/prop65.html).

The New England Journal of Medicine published a study in the late 80’s where they correlated exposure to lead before birth to impaired mental and physical performance during their first two years of life. The interesting part is: the lead levels in the impaired baby’s blood were within acceptable federal guidelines!

The children they studied were from mostly middle and upper income families in Boston and not from old, inner city neighborhoods, where the likelihood of lead exposure from lead sources such as paint chips were known to be a factor. Bottom line, our children should be screened for lead exposure on a routine basis, and as parents we should do our best to reduce exposure whenever possible. It is our responsibility to make the necessary changes, without naively relying on the “government standards” to prevent toxins from being put on our plates, in our toys, on our walls…. (you get my drift).

lg16pcsetcoolsq.jpgAfter my extensive research and several phone calls to manufacturers (without a guarantee my existing dinnerwares are lead and cadmium free), I decided to order a new 16-piece dinnerware set from Sengware.com .

Sengware is 100 % lead and cadmium free and has modern colors and designs!  Fiesta® Dinnerware by The Homer Laughlin China Co. also does not contain any cadmium and lead, is designed and manufactured in the USA.

For more information on lead and cadmium in dinnerware and a list of companies that offer safe dinnerware visit Environmental Defense’s Website.

Category: 0-1 yr, 1-3 yrs, 3-5 yrs, 5+ yrs, Feeding

About the Author (Author Profile)

  • monique

    Is polypropylene a safe alternative for baby dishes/forks/spoons, etc?

  • samantha

    #5 polypropylene plastic is the most stable of all plastics.
    However, if you are looking for the “safe alternative” to plastic, there are many stainless steel feeding accessories, and bamboo that would be a safe alternative to plastics. Look for our up and coming reviews!

  • Anonymous

    There’s actually a small amount of cadmium in the Fiesta dinnerware (less than 2 parts per hundred million).

  • Hannah

    I am looking at a dinnerware set from Pfaltzgraff.com who claim to be lead and cadmium free. Have you heard of this company and do you know if this claim is true? Thanks for your time.

  • safbaby

    Dear Hannah

    No, I have not heard from this company. I did not see “lead and cadmium-free” claim on their website.


    Sandra @ Safbaby.com

  • Eve

    How about crock pots and slow cookers? Do you know of any with a lead-free glaze?

  • TC

    This is a great article. I am also going through a thorough dinnerware cleansing and have found the process of researching and finding a new set to be exhausting and full of contradictory information. Sengware has been on the top of my list but I am just unsure about trusting a relatively young company that may have fewer resources than say a big player like Fiestaware or Pflatzgraff may have. Even though I know both of the latter brands have had their share of historical lead containing products (Fiestaware 70s and Pflatzgraff recent recall).

    So I guess what I am really asking is what your opinion of the Sengware is now, after using the product. Do you still enjoy the product? Have they withstood the test of time? Are they durable? Would you recommend them to a friend?

    Thanks so much! Any help regarding my dinnerware sourcing conundrum would be greatly appreciated!

  • Karen

    Denby also makes lead and cadmium free dinnerware, and I think are a little more reasonably priced than fiesta.

  • Olga

    Unfortunately, Sengware went out of business. Major pain, since I got all of my dishes from them and now that I’ve chipped a bunch, I can’t find replacements for them.

  • cindy

    I have researched casual dinnerware sets from all the “better” manufacturers and only found ONE that states “lead free” on the box and that is Fiesta, which is made in West Virginia. If you want to be completely lead free without the high price tag, buy inexpensive glass dinnerware.

  • Mary Ann

    Mainstay dinnerware does anyone know if this product has a cadmium-free glaze cannot find infomation anywhere?

  • Jorn

    Yes I’m interesting in knowing about Mainstays dinnerware too

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