You found this beautiful piece of pottery at your local ethnic store, you’re wondering if this is something you can cook in? You were told they can be used for cooking, but you’re concerned how safe they are, could there be lead in it?
I am Sachin, an MEC Product Expert and in this article, I’d like to discuss some of these hot topics as it relates to cooking in pottery.
Before we dive into lead in pottery, let’s quickly examine the dangers of being exposed to and the health risks of consuming lead.
Dangers of Lead Exposure
Regardless of whether a person breathes in fine lead dust/lead fumes or eats food contaminated with lead, the health effects are the same. Prolonged exposure may result in high BP, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility [source]. Pregnant women and young children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning as it causes adverse effects in the baby’s brain and nervous system resulting in learning and other behavioral problems [source].
Now that we understand some of the dangers of lead, it’s important to understand a highway route (so to speak) for lead to enter our bodies — from food and cookware! Lead entering our bodies through food is dangerous because it gets processed in the digestive system and assimilated with the other nutrients. But because it has no value in the body it starts accumulating into the bloodstream, and tissue, and becomes hard for the system to remove. For this reason, it is all the more important that your cookware and food be completely void of lead.
So, how can we tell if your pottery contains lead? To answer that question we need to examine two aspects of the item: the glaze, if any, and the clay itself.
Does All Clay Pottery Use Lead Glazes?
Lead is an integral ingredient in pottery glazes, It is what gives it the smooth glass-like appearance (like ceramic ware). Regardless of what the labeling says there is just as much lead in glazes – either directly or indirectly. When lead is not used directly, the manufacturer does not have to disclose the fact and can still call them lead free glazes.
Because of the high level of consumer backlash, manufacturers have looked into other alternatives like lead free glaze. Even with that, there is some amount of lead used that is mixed with other ingredients in the hopes of lowering the lead levels on the label. But what are these alternatives, how dangerous are they? On the surface they are equally or more toxic, only time will tell of their dangers with use!
Another recent invention in traditional pottery is applying iron oxide to the pots. This helps avoid the use of glaze while at the same time giving some the “benefits” of glazing – smooth surface, hiding imperfections on the ware etc. But is it a safe substitute? I don’t think so because this chemical form of iron leaching into food adds no value and can lead to iron overload in the body.
The Clay Itself
For all these reasons, there are some manufacturers who avoid glazing altogether. In those cases we need to examine the clay. Is the clay actually lead free? Most makers use secondary or tertiary clay as these are inexpensive and easier to work with, but they are composed of many contaminants. Furthermore, the makers use lead frits like lead borosilicate frits and lead bisilicate – some examples of indirect use of lead.
While natural clay just by itself does not contain lead and is originally composed of micronutrients, weathering and pollution from commercial farming and/or industrial waste could cause lead to leaching into the clay. This is why it’s important to choose your cookware carefully – choose unglazed, but also choose one that has higher standards of harvesting their clay.
Enjoy Clay Cookware & Dinnerware, Without the Lead Poisoning Risk
If you are looking for truly unglazed, no lead cookware then you need to take a serious look at Miriams Earthen Cookware, why? Because we are the only company that digs 30′ under top soil to get pure and 100% primary clay that has NO Lead, NO Cadmium, NO Arsenic, NO nothing toxic – just pure all-natural clay! In addition, we don’t use glaze, or iron oxide – and yet it is finished to smooth perfection by hand using the same pure and tested clay!
Instead of using a mechanized process that necessitates use of additives, we handmake our pots and pans on a potter’s wheel using skillful hands – taking cue from our ancestors. And why not, in many clay cooking cultures they sure lived longer and healthier lives than we do.
Each piece is individually handcrafted and hand-finished using the Tera-sigillata method, which offers unique healthy features but is a labor of love! Miriam’s Earthen Cookware is willing to go to any length – no mater how tedious the process – to avoid the dangers of toxins in cookware.
People May Ask:
How do I know if my pottery has lead?
Some may believe that the more glossy a pottery is, the more lead it contains. However, only way to tell is to break down a portion of your pot and send it to a lab for testing. Surface rub-tests only detect lead on the surface but that does not mean anything, because when cooking, lead could leach from the core of the pot — as the entire pot is heated.
So while it may not be practical to send every piece of cookware to a lab before using. A better approach would be to buy from a manufacturer that tests the raw materials before making pottery and makes the test results public. I found that Miriams Earthen Cookware does just that and any one can see their test results here. I hope this information makes it easier to choose a lead glaze free pottery.