The Food and Drug Administration, FDA, has received several reports from local and state agencies that traditional pottery from several manufacturers in Mexico labeled as “lead free” in fact contain levels of extractable lead comparable to levels that may be found in lead-glazed pottery. In some cases, the levels of lead exceed limits specified in FDA guidelines. After conducting an investigation into these claims, the FDA has confirmed some of these reports.
The FDA believes the lead contamination occurs when potters convert from using lead glaze to using non-lead glaze and do not take proper measures to ensure that their equipment and production facilities, which may be contaminated with lead from longstanding use, do not contaminate their new pottery.
As a part of the FDA’s guidelines, they are reminding manufacturers that permanent labeling be used and a specified statement be included on the product such as “Not for Food Use – May Poison Food.”
Exposure to large amounts of lead can cause lead poisoning. It is a dangerous condition that occurs when the body absorbs lead into the bloodstream.
According to Michael Kashtock, Ph.D., an FDA consumer safety officer and food scientist, “Exposure to large amounts of lead may result in overt and possibly severe symptoms for which an individual is likely to seek medical attention. However, infants, young children, and the developing fetus can be affected by chronic exposure to low amounts of lead that may not result in obvious symptoms of lead poisoning but that could cause slowed development, learning or behavior problems, and lower IQ scores.”
Health effects of lead in children:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing problems
Health effects of lead in adults:
- Reproductive problems
- High blood pressure and hypertension
- Nerve disorders
- Memory and concentration problems
- Muscle and joint pain
The FDA suggests the following:
- Check the pottery if it appears to be handmade and has a crude appearance or irregular shape
- Is it damaged or excessively worn?
- If it is brightly decorated in orange, red, or yellow colors – it may be intended for decoration only and not for use to serve food
- If you have pottery that fits any of these descriptions or are concerned of its safety, there are lead-testing kits sold in hardware stores and online.
- Do not use the pottery if you cannot determine its safety
- For questions and answers on lead-glazed traditional pottery, please go to FDA’s website.
The Michigan Department of Community Health reports that the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, which is funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, supports the coordination of lead poisoning prevention and surveillance services for children in Michigan. Their focus is on identification of lead hazards in the home and the use of special environmental cleaning techniques to minimize lead hazards. Please click here for more information.
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