Uranium Leached From Pre-1970's Ceramic Dinnerware

Date of Graduation

Spring 1996


Master of Science in Chemistry


Chemistry and Biochemistry

Committee Chair

Ralph Sheets


Uranium has been as a coloring agent in glazed ceramics for many years to produce a wide range of colors. In low-lead glazes, the presence of uranium produces yellows and ivories, whereas uranium in high-lead, low-fired glazes produces deep orange or red colors. The purpose of this research was to use atomic absorption spectrophotometry to determine the lead content of various uranium-glazed dinnerware leachates, and then to determine a quantitative method for uranium analysis of those leachates and determine if there is a correlation between the two quantities. Uranium was analyzed with a computer-interfaced radiation monitor. Results show that lead can be leached from the orange ceramics in excess of 100 times the maximum allowable ingestible limits. Uranium levels in the orange ceramicware leachates ranged as high as 30 times the maximum allowable intake of 4 mg per day. All three types of dinnerware were checked for fluorescence at two wavelengths using a hand-held UV light. The combined results of this research indicate that antique, orange ceramic dinnerware should not be used for food storage or service because of excess lead and uranium found in the leachate solutions.

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© Sandra Lynnette Turpen