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I’ve written recently about the possible presence of lead in ceramic dishes and cookware.  The FDA recommends using lead test kits as a way to determine if it’s safe to eat or drink from your ceramic ware.  This type of test is helpful but limited.  It’s important to understand what you can learn from it and what you can’t.


Lead test kits became popular after the EPA established the 2008 Lead Renovating, Repair and Painting rule (RRP) that allows certified contractors to use certain lead test kits to determine if regulated lead-based paint is present in housing and other facilities where children are present.  Because the tests were designed to test paint some brands , such as Scitus, specifically state that they are not intended for ceramics.  It’s important to make sure the test you buy is appropriate for this purpose.


3M LeadCheck is the Best Brand for Testing Ceramics.


3M LeadCheck is an easy-to-use swab that is rubbed on the surface of the item you are testing.  If it turns red it indicates the presence of lead.  The directions on the package state that it takes just 30 seconds to determine the presence of lead but it’s worth noting that a Consumer Reports review found that it can take up to 2 hours if there are low levels of lead!  Make sure to wait this long to see if the swab turns red.


This Test Can Tell You if Lead Is Present but Not if It’s Free of Lead


The limitation of the 3M LeadCheck test is that it only detects lead down to 600ppm.  That means that a product could contain over 500ppm of lead and still test negative. For perspective, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) limits the amount of lead in children’s products to 100ppm.  Because no level of lead is safe, this is simply not a sensitive enough test to determine that a product’s safety.  If you get a positive result on your dishes or cookware, stop using them.  If you get a negative result it does not necessarily mean that no lead is present.


Lead test kits can be helpful for identifying lead in children’s toys, ceramic tiles, older porcelain enameled bathtubs, sinks and toilets.  Just remember that a negative reading doesn’t necessarily mean the item is free of lead.



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