Toxins like cadmium and lead can be found on the surfaces of certain dishes, from the paints or glazes used to decorate them.
Lead builds up in the body over time and if contaminated dishes are repeatedly used for food use they can pose a health hazard. Acidic foods and heat sources like microwaving can cause toxins to leach out of dinnerware and into food and drinks.
Risks like lead poisoning can occur when foods are contaminated by dishes and poisons are absorbed into the bloodstream.
When shopping for dishes pay special attention to the way they are made and what the finish consists of. Look for things like glazes, clay, worn or antique pieces, or if grayish deposits are present on the surface. Also, if decorative inlays appear to be on top of the glaze this is an indicator that lead paint may have been used. Some handmade pieces may be decorated or coated with lead based paints. Also, be wary of labels that state items are lead-safe, which means that they do contain lead but supposedly safe enough amounts to still use.
Certain plastic serving dishes can pose problems, too. A study evaluated participants after consuming heated noodle soup in bowls containing melamine, a type of plastic, and found that the substance could actually be detected in the systems of those who ate from them. Since a specific dish was used for the study it may not be generalizable to all plastic dishes, but the warning prompts awareness about the possible health risks associated with using dishes made from tainted materials.
While we have enough on our plates without having to actually worry about them too, it is important to be aware of health and developmental dangers. If there are specific pieces you would like to examine for lead exposure test kits can be purchased for home use, but if ever unsure about any dinnerware do not use it for foodservice.
For more tips on what to look for read the pdf file provided by cchealth.org.
Questions and Answers about Lead in Ceramic Tableware: Contra Costa Health Services / Lead Poisoning Prevention Project. Retrieved on January 23, 2013 from: cchealth.org
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