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Question from TA

Hi Debra,

I’m wondering if you’ve ever looked into whether “Depression glass” is toxic to eat off of.

I have a set that was gifted to me years ago; it was a collection that was built up over time, just as a collection, not for actual use.

I am now wondering whether it is okay to eat off of, so I just did an internet search and feel unclear about the answer.

The answers from people who sell and collect depression glass is that it is safe; they mention uranium in some colors, arsenic in others…but it’s safe they say because it’s a tiny amount, it’s bound up in the matrix of the glass, and so forth.

Hmm. That also doesn’t really answer anything about my actual collection, which is pink.

But what concerns me more is whether there is lead in it. I found some info about there being two options in depression glass production — one containing lead and one not (but this no-lead option might have contained other undesirable ingredients).

Of course I would avoid lead crystal, but that doesn’t appear to be what they’re talking about in some instances, and it’s not clear to me whether other colors might have also contained lead to add to the clarity of the glass.

So overall it left me confused, and I just wondered if you’ve looked into this and can tell me anything definitive.

I don’t want to trash it without knowing anything for sure, given that it was a gift and it’s lovely to look at. But of course I don’t want to eat off of it — or donate it to Goodwill or sell it — if it contains lead or is otherwise harmful. If it were one cheap saucer or something I’d just throw it out (I’ve generally done that when it’s something I’m not sure about and don’t want to send it to Goodwill to lead-poison someone else’s child); but it’s a whole set and a collectible, so I’d rather know something before just getting rid of it.

Debra’s Answer

My general rule is when in doubt, err on the side of caution.

It may be true that there is so little uranium or arsenic in the glass that it’s not a problem. But the other side of the coin is not a problem for who? Age and body size can make a difference in how toxic it is to an individual person as well as the condition of their detox system and the health of their body as a whole.

Short of having the pieces analyzed for their content, we really don’t know if the glass contains something to be concerned about.

We do know from lead crystal that minerals can leach out of glass into food and then into bodies when the food is eaten.

Myself, I wouldn’t eat off depression glass, but wouldn’t have a problem keeping it to enjoy it’s beauty.

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