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QUESTION: Is there any way I can find out if my ceramic cookware I use is safe? 21/05/11 New South Wales, Australia

Hi I have some concern about vintage ceramic ware or pottery that is used for cooking and storage of foods.

I have quite a few pieces of casseroles dishes that are specifically from Bendigo Potteries in Vic Australia. I contacted Bendigo Pottery & asked if any of their glazes used in vintage pieces older pottery and used today contained lead.

The response was that none of their glazes used back when or used today contain lead.

I know that traces of lead may remain due to impurities before the firing process however my greatest concern is to ascertain if the casserole dishes I do own & cook with contain harmful chemicals such as lead that can leach out into foodstuffs or during the cooking process?

Is there ANY WAY I can find out through existing information somewhere on the web or through your org. or listings from govt. bodies to determine if my cookware i use is safe? Especially the vintage cookware which possibly dates back to the 1960's - 1970's? And if Bendigo Pottery cookware and Diana Neferttit range of Diana Cook ware (made for cooking purposes and high temp. such as casserole dishes or ramekins etc.) is safe to use for cooking and food cooked for human consumption?

Thank you

From: L Walker Sent: Friday, May 27, 2011 6:55 AM

Dear Sir/Madam,

Would you have a list of available industrial pathologists/labs that will test ceramic/pottery ware in NSW / Australia please?  I live in NSW so NSW based labs would be more suitable.  I do have a couple of insignificant small pieces of pottery and I would like to send them away to get these tested for lead and other harmful ingredients. I would be happy to send you the results as well if these would prove useful to you.

Thank you once more for your assistance

Mrs L Walker

ANSWER: May 22 2011 Ask the Dr for a blood lead test.

Dear Mrs L Walker,

the best way to find out if your ceramic cookware and storage dishes contain lead that is leaching into your food, is to ask your GP for a blood lead test.

There has never been a national blood lead survey of all ages in Australia so no one can possibly tell you what a "normal" or "average" blood lead level is for a woman of your age but you can compare your blood lead result (and the results of anyone else who is using the same ceramic ware) to US data to get a feel for what is "acceptable" these days and if you are above that US level for your age and sex, then you could have your ceramic ware tested for lead.

In the USA, the most recent in a series of large-scale national blood lead surveys found a geometric mean blood lead level for women aged between 20 and 59 of 1.7 micrograms per decilitre (g/dL) and for men in the same age range, the mean was 2.9 g/dL. [Reference: Table 2 in "Blood Lead Levels --- United States, 1999--2002 MMWR May 27, 2005 / 54(20);513-516  (NHANES) ]

The ceramic ware test is a destructive test (at a lab) so it is only useful for when you have a set of ceramic ware and you expect the result to be that the tested piece complies with the ceramic ware standard and you will be able to validly assume (eg it is the same colour) that it is representative of the other pieces in the set. You will then be able to continue to use the other pieces with confidence, while you look for other contributors to your elevated blood lead level (elevated above the US average). If the tested piece fails the lead test, then you'd have to consider ceasing to use all the pieces that are similar to it. If you have lots of ceramic ware that is one-of-a-kind, then you will see that testing it is only useful to determine that the ceramic ware WAS the cause of your elevated blood lead level (if you have one) and you therefore don't have to search for other causes (of which there are many possibilities).

I hope this helps and I'll be happy to give more specific advice if you report back as to what your blood lead level is. If you are relying on your doctor's interpretation of your blood lead result, you should at the very least ask your doctor to read "Dangers of a blood lead level above 2  g/dL and below 10  g/dL to adults" first, as it is very difficult for doctors to keep up with the flood of research that is finding more and more health impacts at even low levels of lead in the blood.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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