Lead-Free Dinnerware: 8 Questions to Ask

By Fable Staff
Lead-Free Dinnerware: 8 Questions You Should Ask Before Buying

Before you invest in dinnerware, there are many things to consider. Of course, you'll want to choose something that looks nice and is durable so you can use it for years to come—but you may also want dinnerware that's non-toxic and lead-free.

However, you may not know what lead is or why you should look for dishes without it. At Fable, we strive to offer high-quality and safe dinnerware for you and your family, so we're going to go over what lead is, why it is harmful, and what questions you should be asking when seeking out safe dinnerware for your home.


1. What Is Lead? 

The first thing you should know is what lead is, and how it ended up in dinnerware. 

Lead is a naturally occurring metal that can be found throughout the Earth. It is a heavy metal and is denser than most common materials. It has a low melting point and is malleable, making it easy to break down and use. The durability of lead also initially made it a seemingly excellent additive to many materials.

In the past, manufacturers put lead in a variety of products such as dinnerware, plumbing pipes, batteries, and even cosmetics. 


2. Why Should I Avoid Lead?

By the early 1900s, countries began to realize the adverse effects that lead had on people, such as lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning occurs slowly as lead makes it into the bloodstream, and can cause a lot of problems. Exposure to high levels of lead may cause anemia, weakness, and even kidney and brain damage. In some cases, having  high levels of lead in your body can even cause death. Lead exposure can also lead to a wide range of problems for children's development and behavior. 

Many homes built before 1978 even have lead paint in them, and other materials  that may contain lead. This lead can make it into your bloodstream and can adversely affect your health. 

Another place you can still find lead today is in dinnerware, which may be surprising since you're eating off of it. This is why it's important to know what is in your dinnerware, and how you can stay far away from lead.


3. What Dishes Are Lead Free?

Perhaps surprisingly, dinnerware with small amounts of lead is allowed to be sold in the United States. This lead can seep into your food when it heats up in the oven or microwave, or when you eat acidic food off your dishes.

It can be difficult to tell whether your dinnerware is lead-free, since manufacturers don't have to list whether or not their dishes contain lead. So what dishes are lead-free and safe for you to use? 

Here are some guidelines to help you stay safe:

  • If you're not sure if something is lead-free, do not heat food or drink in it since this contributes to the lead-leaching process. A lot of dinnerware with lead in it is labeled as not being microwave safe.
  • Avoid keeping food or drink in dishes that may contain lead.
  • Avoid putting highly acidic food or drink in dinnerware that you're not sure is lead-free. Acidic food and drink can pull the lead out of dishes a lot faster than non-acid foods.


4. How Do I Tell If My Dishes Are Lead-Free? 

Some dinnerware manufacturers still use lead in glazes and decorations to make their products look good. As mentioned before, it is difficult to tell for sure, but there are certain characteristics to watch out for.

Try to avoid:

  • Eating off of intricately decorated dishes.
  • Traditional glazed terracotta dinnerware.
  • Antique dinnerware.
  • Dinnerware with corroded glaze, especially dishes with a chalky appearance of grey residue.


5. How Do I Find Lead-Free Dishes? 

While the FDA regulates dinnerware sales that contain lead, companies can still sell dishes with trace amounts of lead. When looking for non-toxic and lead-free dinnerware, there are some things you can look for. 

Search to see if the company or label indicates that the product is lead-free. If the information is not readily available, try contacting someone at the company to ask them directly.

Another interesting tip is to look for plain white dishes as they're less likely to contain lead. Typically, lead is more commonly usually used to make bright colors. 

At Fable, all of our dinnerware is lead-free and non-toxic, so it is completely safe for you and your family to eat off of—and it's also microwave and dishwasher safe.


6. Is Corelle Lead-Free and Safe?

A common material used by many companies to make dinnerware is Corelle. It is the material that can be found in plastic dishes, cups, and other pieces. 

It makes the dishes more durable and feel stronger than the standard plastic. It has a porcelain look and feel, which is why it's so popular. It also comes in a variety of colors, and is usually very affordable.

That being said, while it is lead-free, it can be toxic. These products have been testing positive for cadmium in certain colors, which is known as a carcinogen. If in doubt, keep in mind that white Corelle products are the safest.


7. Do Vintage Dishes Contain Lead? 

Since vintage dinnerware was made before manufacturers knew that lead was toxic, it is often found in these pieces. 

Many of the old glazes on antique or vintage china contain some level of lead. If your vintage dishes are highly decorated or brightly colored, there is a significant possibility they have lead in the glazing or paint. 

Another thing to look out for is any damage to your vintage dinnerware. If you see any cracks, chipping, or crazing, don't eat off of it. If there are trace amounts of lead in it, damage to the pieces can result in lead more easily seeping into your food. 


8. Is Stoneware Lead-Free and Safe? 

Fable uses stoneware made from clay in Portugal. While Fable makes all of its pieces lead-free to help you shop with ease, some other companies’ stoneware may contain lead. 

The clay and materials used to make dinnerware can contain some levels of lead. The glazes used on the stoneware can also contain lead. This is why it is essential to check with individual companies to see whether their products contain lead. You can never be too safe when it comes to your health and the health of your loved ones. 


Better Safe Than Sorry 

Lead is a harmful material that can show up in everything from older homes to your dinnerware. To avoid the chance that there may be lead in your dishes, look for microwave-safe products and stay away from brightly colored items (unless you can verify that they are lead-free). 

At Fable, we offer high-quality, lead-free dinnerware, so you feel good about the products that you use for every meal. 




Lead | NIEHS

Health Problems Caused by Lead | NIOSH

Lead alert facts: Lead in pottery - Fact sheet | Environment