Lead hazards from old ceramic dinnerware


Lead is found to leach from the glazes of some pre-1950s ceramic dinnerware in concentrations high enough to constitute a health hazard. When orange, uranium-containing glazed dishes made by U.S. dinnerware companies before 1943 were filled with acetic acid solutions comparable to household vinegar, concentrations of up to 350 micrograms of lead per milliliter of leachate (μg/ml) were measured. The values greatly exceed the 3 μg/ml limit allowed by U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations for 24-hour leaching of dinnerware with 4% acetic acid. Chromogen screening tests on 40 orange-glazed dishes manufactured by a total of 16 different U.S. companies showed that all release lead in concentrations exceeding FDA limits. Some blue or blue-green dishes manufactured by U.S. companies before 1950 were also found to release lead in unacceptably high concentrations. These glazes are colored with copper compounds and concentrations of lead leached by acetic acid are strongly correlated with concentrations of leached copper. Dishes of these types are widely collected in the U.S. and are readily available in antique stores and flea markets. These dishes are unsafe and should not be used for preparation, storage, or serving of food. © 1997 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Document Type





Copper-containing glazes, Lead-glazed dinnerware, Uranium-containing glazes

Publication Date


Journal Title

Studies in Environmental Science