Leaded or Unleaded?
June 30, 2005 8:20 AM   Subscribe

Lead-GlazeFilter: I just bought a nice bowl at a Japanese market. It was made in Japan. Is there lead in the glaze? Is it safe to eat from? If it had been made in China, what then? Is this an issue of individual bowls or of country regulations? I know in the US there are laws against lead leaching glazes.
posted by OmieWise to Food & Drink (8 answers total)
From here:
Fortunately, there are countries such as Japan and the United Kingdom that
have good quality control procedures, similar to those in the United States.

The People's Republic of China and FDA entered into an agreement in 1988 to
ensure that ceramic products shipped to the United States would be inspected
for safety. FDA now is working on similar agreements with other countries,
such as Italy, Spain and Hong Kong.

posted by Kirth Gerson at 8:53 AM on June 30, 2005

If you're really worried, you could also buy a kit to test for lead. We used some last week when preparing decrepit houses.
posted by jmd82 at 9:16 AM on June 30, 2005

You can pick up a lead test kit pretty cheap if you're concerned.
posted by phearlez at 9:17 AM on June 30, 2005

Frankly, I wouldn't worry about it JUST because it is from Japan. If this is something you lay awake at night thinking about, you should test all of your ceramics. Lead glaze is NOT outlawed here in the United States. Not that I have ever done this, but there isn't anything stopping me from making a bowl with lead glaze and selling it. Everyone knows (and I hope agrees...) not to do it, even the Japanese.
posted by pwb503 at 9:36 AM on June 30, 2005

Lead is used as a flux, to lower the firing point of the glaze. It's only a problem if under-fired, and left with an acidic food inside, say overnight, which you then eat. The Japanese and Chinese were making pottery before the United States existed.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:43 AM on June 30, 2005

Response by poster: weapons-grade pandemonium writes "The Japanese and Chinese were making pottery before the United States existed."

I know this, it doesn't mean they knew about lead poisoning before the US existed. Thanks for the other info.
posted by OmieWise at 11:32 AM on June 30, 2005

A quick, easy test - put a freshly cut lemon slice on the surface of the bowl for a few hours - if it leaches out any color, something is a little fishy. I would still use it, just not let any food sit in it very long. That's just me, though, and since I'm already a potter and going to get all sorts of nasty diseases from my profession, mayhap I'm a bit foolhardy. . .

On the up side, if you DO get lead poisoning, you'll be real good looking for a while - bright eyes, pale skin, red lips. The young women who painted the pots made in places like Stoke-on-Trent regularly died from lead poisoning, but they sure did look pretty for a while. ( I don't mean recently, more like a few centuries ago.)
posted by Slothrop at 2:08 PM on June 30, 2005

If your bowl is "high fire" porcelain/stone ware you don't have worries, if it is low fire lusterware/earthenware, glazed in bright colors then,best test for lead.
posted by hortense at 2:26 PM on June 30, 2005

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