As for dinnerware, porcelain (or fine chinaware) can be used for everyday dining or formal setting. Porcelain is a lump of clay mixed with various stones like kaolin, quartz, and feldspar before placing it inside a hot furnace. If heated at the right temperature, it produces one of the strongest ceramics in the market.
Porcelain is known for its translucent, milky white appearance and its ability to be molded into different dinnerware types like glass, bowl, and plates. In a fashion sense, porcelain has its intended upscale look, making it more popular on formal dining and special occasions.
Is Porcelain Nontoxic?
Porcelain is a nontoxic material. It can be used to prepare and serve meals without the fear of leaching chemicals. Since porcelain is an inert and heat-stable material, it will not cause any chemicals to mix into the food—which can harm the body. Using porcelain for your home will not put any risk on your overall health.
However, if your porcelain is decorated with toxic materials (like lead), these harmful substances might liquefy in hot temperatures. In earlier years, manufacturers mix lead with other pigments to create glitter-like decors within the plate. Pure enamel is also added with other toxins, which create a special coating when porcelain is drenched.
Once these materials reached their melting point, there is a high possibility that your porcelain will leach these harmful toxins and could potentially be mixed into your dinnerware. Having an enameled cookware is not dangerous—but having the enamel coating infused with toxins is a different matter. If your enamel contains toxins like lead, there is a high possibility for this chemical to take over your precious porcelain.
If you want to use porcelain for daily use, select the vitrified ones. Vitrified porcelain uses a commercialized glaze that is toxic-free and will not leach into your food. In case you want to use enameled variants, contact first the manufacturer to ensure that the enameled is not mixed with lead, cadmium, and other toxins.
If you happen to own antique chinaware, you may use it on casual occasions but not daily. This antique chinaware may have used lead to create detailed décor. You may conduct a lead test by yourself or by contacting a specialist. If you don’t want to risk it, use this vintage dinnerware as display material instead.
Do Porcelain Dishes Contain Lead?
Until today, there is still dinnerware that has high lead or cadmium content. Manufacturers still consider using these toxins in this material since the FDA allowed these toxins if used “on the minimal amount.” This begs to question the standard since the agency cannot provide a precise amount of toxins harmful to the consumers.
Despite its colorful designs and eye-candy structures, some porcelain dishes have harmful content of lead. In the recent study, the safe amount of lead for food consumption is around 90 ppm range or below. Out of several investigations, studies find out that old porcelain has the highest lead content. This can be true since history has dated using lead, cadmium, and other toxins to create metallic décor on some vintage plates.
Out of 315 plates inspected, 36% of porcelain dishes exceeded the 300 ppm count. Below are some lead (Pb) content found in several items:
- Chateau buffet, vintage (140,000 ppm)
- Mikasa, fine vintage china (45,300 ppm)
- Porcelain tile (43,900 ppm)
- Pottery barn, white ceramic plate (363 ppm)
Lead-based products were first introduced in the household as paint material for antique furniture. It was later mixed with dinnerware and even pottery since it provides a metallic luster when applied to a surface.
Eating your meal with lead-plated dinnerware will accumulate this toxin quickly. In a short period, this may cause serious health problems due to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning happens when there’s a visible toxin buildup inside the body.
Children younger than six years old is vulnerable for having developmental delay and learning difficulties. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers can have a premature birth, low birth weight, and slow fetal and developmental growth. Lead poisoning may lead to appetite loss, sluggishness, fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, seizures, and pica for the older generations.
Is Porcelain Good for Health?
Porcelain poses a low risk to a person’s overall health. Porcelain can be used safely for food consumption. What makes porcelain a threat for some users is the chemicals used to coat and paint the porcelain. Some porcelain is placed with cadmium and leads to release vibrant, colorful designs. Several manufacturers use the same material to add a coating to make the porcelain appear shinier than usual.
Lead and other toxins have been used in creating dinnerware, especially in ceramics and porcelain. Decorative and dinnerware types are coated with a lead-based glaze to create a smooth glass finish. This makes the painted designs and patterns pop through. These glazes are added to release rich and intense designs.
If you cannot tell if dinnerware has a lead-content, here are some dishes with a possibility of having lead:
- Traditional glazed dishware made with terra cotta clay from Latin American countries;
- Asian dishes with extremely intricate designs, colors, and shapes;
- Hand-crafted tableware that doesn’t have a lead-free glaze seal;
- Antique dinnerware and tableware from generations of families;
- Corroded glaze with a chalky grey residue when washed.
If you are not sure if your dinnerware has lead, you may use home test kits. These test kits have a quick color test system and are readily available in hardware stores. Follow the steps placed on the testing kit manual to identify if your dinnerware is lead-free. These test kits can only measure the presence of toxins—not the amount. Laboratory tests can provide exact lead content measurements (in ppm), but it may cost way expensive.
If you don’t want to encounter this type of harmful dinnerware, you should use plain white porcelain. You may consider using the colored variants only if made with colored clay and not through the colored glaze. If lead-containing decorations are placed on the area where food is not placed, it is safe for food consumption.