Wednesday, December 26, 2007
Once again, our runaway train to industrialization and mass-production has turned up more ways that we're poisoning ourselves. Over the last month or so, a flurry of concern has arisen across Utah after a 16 month old girl was found to have lead poisoning. After extensive testing of their home, it was found that the plates that the mother was eating from contained lead, which was then passed to the child through breast milk. Wow. The original story aired on KUTV from Salt Lake, and their local on-air watchdog, "Get Gephardt", did some further investigation. The television station was able to get viewers to bring in over 1,500 plates for lead testing and found that more than 30% contained toxic levels of lead (pdf link for the full report and list of manufacturers). It seems that glazings commonly have lead and many plates with colorful paintings or patterns often have higher levels as well. The lead in the glazing and paints leeches out into your food, especially when heating them in microwaves. Although some of these plates were made in China, many were made in Europe, or here in the good old US of A. And it wasn't just cheapo Walmart brands either, expensive names such as Spode were full of the stuff.
Lead is extraordinarily toxic to the developing nervous systems of young children and can cause permanent developmental delays and retardation. This is just another example of how industrialized production of goods from improperly tested materials can be harmful. We're finding more and more toxic substances in everyday items, from toys, to food containers, to foods, and more. Imagine how many things we haven't figured out are harming us at low levels or have an additive effect with others?
If you can, get your dishes tested. If you can't, consider performing a "tox audit" of your home - we're transitioning to metal water bottles and glass food containers from petrol-based plastics with phalates, Bisphenol-A, and other toxins (here's a good quick article on plastics).
As far as the lead-tainted dishes in question go, there have been no recalls, although the HomeTrends/Gibson dishes in question were pulled from WalMart's shelves. Utah legislators are going to bat and trying to get a law passed to require manufacturers to label products with lead. Nice start, hopefully that will help you choose when you buy new dishes in 5-10 years.