Since there are many thousands of different makes and kinds of china, no one has tested them all. The Environmental Defense Fund says that really dangerous pieces of china are fairly rare, but some types of dishes are more likely to have lead. The EDF says to watch for:
- China handed down from a previous generation or found in antique stores and flea markets.
- Home-made or handcrafted china, either from the U.S. or abroad, unless you are sure the maker used a lead-free glaze.
- Traditional glazed terra cotta ware made in Mexico, unless they are specifically labeled as lead-free.
- Bright colors or decorations inside surfaces that touch the food or drink, including the rim.
- Decorations on top of the glaze instead of beneath it. If you can feel the decoration when you rub your fingers over it, or see brush strokes above the glaze surface.
Decoration that has begun to wear away or corrode or one that has a dusty or chalky grey residue on the glaze after the piece has been washed. This can be dangerous and should not used!
Don't store food or drink in questionable china pitchers, bowls, etc. Don't serve highly acidic food or drink in questionable china. This includes cola-type soft drinks; orange and grapefruit juice; applesauce and apple juice; tomatoes, ketchup, and spaghetti sauce; salad dressings with vinegar; tea and coffee.
Don't heat or microwave in questionable china. Heat can speed up the lead-leaching process.
Many experts believe that white china is less likely to have lead problems than highly decorated, multi-colored china. If you are concerned, the only way to be certain is to use glass dishes without decoration, buy dishes labeled "lead-free," or do a home lead test on your existing dishes. Simple test kits, costing approximately $13–$30 apiece, are available in most hardware and paint stores.
There are safe alternatives to everything you're using now. I show you easy ways to make important changes in every room in your house in my book Super Natural Home: Improve Your Health, Home and Planet—One Room at a Time.