Recently Madam Cat Faerie began to see a Naturopathic doctor who ordered all kinds of detailed tests to delve very deeply for root causes of various conditions that regular doctors either don’t know about, or don’t put much thought into, or even think are not needed. One test panel was for heavy metals which revealed that my blood has a high level of lead, in fact, the highest level this doctor has seen in any of her patients. How on green-earth did this happen to someone who’s been obsessively organic, and really careful about everything, and for decades? I asked Dr. Diane Angela Fong what she thought the top culprits might be and she narrowed her eyes at me and said “red lipstick is notorious.” GASP! I’m notorious for wearing it and thought I was buying the lead free brands! But more on that later in this article. Let’s talk about ceramics.
I spent the entire drive home thinking about possible lead exposures. Topping my list of potential trouble was my collection of vintage restaurant ware dishes. I wondered about my “good china” which was made years after it was mandated the glazes be lead free.
Well guess what dear readers; what we learned about “lead free glazes” will have your head spinning.
3M makes a kit called LeadCheck which is an accurate way to test for lead at home; in fact it’s actually a product that professionals use. Each package contains special “swabs.” They come 2 to a package or 8 to a package. They are expensive ranging from $4 to $6 per swab, but are easy to find in paint stores and hardware stores. There’s another brand called First Alert but we didn’t use those. We bought 3 packages of 8 swabs giving me 24 swabs to test with. Party time – nothing was safe for my test swabs! On a rainy Saturday afternoon of lead testing I was both relieved and horrified by the results.
What failed my swab tests:
A cute new lead-free tea cup
A new casserole (it has the bare clay areas where the lid meets the pot which were tainted during firing in an old kiln)
My French made enamel Dutch oven
“The good china” which was made 5 years after laws for lead free glazes went into effect
A cute new treat dish for the furry ones
Lead free glazes – why you can’t assume it’s all ok.
I called one of the largest glaze companies in the US the one that most potters and ceramists buy from. They gave me the usual song and dance that the glazes come to them with a guarantee. When I asked if they randomly check just to make sure about the lead, they got hissy and said “No, not anymore, we used to test but stopped, we trust our supplier.” I didn’t like that answer and they didn’t like that I pressed harder and that I wanted to know why they just accepted what they were told without randomly testing.
This conversation did not end well, but before they hung up on me, I did learn something very scary:
If the kiln is an old one and if that kiln ever fired pieces with leaded glazes the lead remains and will cross contaminate anything fired in the future.
Interestingly, when this glaze company did test for lead they used the 3M swabs.
As our long time readers have read in the past our cats have always had their food and water in clear glass Pyrex but for fun we have a few “cute” treat bowls for the cats and bunnies. One of them tested positive for lead.
A few years ago Mother Jones printed a very shocking article about lead in lipstick. I read it with horror that one of the top offenders was Nars which for years had been my “gluten free” lipstick of choice and the redder the better. I was so angry that I reprinted the article in Cat Faeries newsletter since many of you wear make-up, and who among us does not kiss their cat on the head? Dr. Fong tells me that very often the colorants that make lipstick red are lead based. Want to know if yours is safe?
Rub some lipstick on the back of your hand. Take a piece of gold jewelry, a ring is ideal, that is at least 14 karat gold (have it tested even if it’s marked 14K as it may be a much lower percentage of gold) and rub it into the lipstick. If it turns black – it’s got lead.
Here’s the Mother Jones article: http://www.motherjones.com/environment/2013/05/study-lead-metals-lipstick-top-20
I hope that your take away is that we cannot be too cautious or trusting. Testing for potential lead in your cat’s food, water, and treat bowls as well as your own dishes is something to consider. Getting the lead of my body is going to be long and unpleasant. I hope that Cat Faeries has spared you and your cats from a toxic lead load. You can’t go wrong with American made clear glass Pyrex!