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A “Lead Free” Mixing Bowl.

Originally Posted 10389287_629443570507384_530772391370397894_n: August 10, 2014

“Emile Henry” brand mixing bowl
Purchased New (recently) at Williams Sonoma.
Note: Emile Henry products are sold and marketed as “lead-free”


1) white interior glaze: 1,647 ppm lead
2) unglazed (bottom of bowl): 80 ppm lead
3) yellow exterior glaze: 365 ppm lead

Update – May 1, 2015
When I spoke with this company to discuss their “lead-free” labeling it was clear that they (like many other companies) misunderstood the testing they had done on their products. They had only done California Prop 65 compliance testing – to determine if any lead was leaching at the time of manufacture. This test came back “safe” or “lead-free”, using this one California standard. This test does NOT test for actual lead content in the item [lead content could in fact be high, as in the case of this bowl – but if it is not leaching at the time of manufacture, it will pass this test.] —
The Concern:  While prop 65 compliance is great, advertising these items as 10570554_629443613840713_6730964275760618947_n“lead free” is neither appropriate nor accurate. My greater concerns include:
1) the fact that lead is getting into their manufacturing at those level (which is far greater than “trace” levels), and
2) while it may be Prop 65 compliant and “safe” at the time of manufacture – what happens down the line for an item with heavy usage?  It’s possible that wear and tear on the item can cause surface deterioration which may eventually cause lead to be released into the food.

If you look to older items (vintage china for example) this is not uncommon (for a high polish finish to be deteriorating and releasing trace lead onto food contact surfaces.)

Finally, over the entire “life cycle” of a product containing lead, workers may be exposed to lead dust, it may wind up contaminating soil and children may be poisoned. [In the case of VERY high levels – in lead BASED items, like batteries for instance – this is already a global crisis.] —
The principle here is: if it CAN be manufactured WITHOUT any lead [clearly already demonstrated to be achievable in the case of many brands of ceramics], from an ecological/environmental perspective alone, it is reasonable to encourage / demand that we hold ourselves to that standard in selecting the items that will play such a centr10606355_629443487174059_5819705741867457270_nal and long-term role in our daily lives.
Bottom Line:

Is this bowl going to poison you? Highly unlikely.

Years from now is there a possibility that the coatings on this bowl could add to the aggregate environmental toxicity exposure of your family (as it begins to wear/ deteriorate)? Possibly.

Are there true lead-free alternatives out there? Yes. Definitely yes.

Is this company trying to do a good job to address the concern [given the limited information available to them]? Yes.

3 Responses to A “Lead Free” Mixing Bowl.

  1. Jennifer Taggart May 1, 2015 at 11:06 am #

    This blog post confuses the requirements and obligations under the regulatory programs that control lead content. California’s Proposition 65 is not about leaching. However, the FDA standards for ceramic food contact items depend upon leaching. Proposition 65 is about the presence of a listed chemical. A manufacturer is required to provide a warning if a Proposition 65 listed chemical is present unless and only if the manufacturer can demonstrate there is no exposure above the no observeable effects level and/or no significant risk level (both for lead because it is listed as a carcinogen and as a reproductive toxicant). If the manufacturer can demonstrate the chemical is below the NOEL and/or the NSR level, then the the manufacturer is not required to provide a Proposition 65 warning. The FDA’s CPG 545.540 sets leaching maximum levels for ceramic food contact items. Also, the XRF testing is a bit misleading as it is not a homogenous material, but layered materials so the results can be misleading as to the source of the lead – the glaze or the clay.

    • Tamara May 1, 2015 at 11:15 am #

      Thanks, Jennifer!

      We’ll take a stab at editing it so it is not confusing the concepts!

      Tamara (& Len)

    • Tamara May 1, 2015 at 11:17 am #

      P.S. We tested both the bare clay on the bottom and the glaze – and the higher readings were in the glaze not the base material. Jennifer, how do you feel (from a legal perspective) about these items being sold as lead-free? Thanks again for commenting!

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