Lead In Pottery

I’ve always liked ceramics and earthenware. The color pottery sold in ethnic markets or overseas has a special appeal to me. There are even special recipes that are supposed to be cooked using earthenware such as cazuela de mariscos (seafood casserole) among others.

While some of these pottery and dishes might decorate many a kitchen across America, there is a risk that these ceramics may contain a dangerous element—lead. Yes, lead is a heavy metal that has harmful health effects, especially among babies and young children. Lead can cause serious damage to the brain and nervous system in young children. It also causes behavioral and learning problems and deafness. In adults, it can cause reproductive disorders and hypertension among other health problems. Although dust and paint chips from old lead based paint are the primary source of exposure, this toxic metal can come from other sources as well. Lead is occasionally used in the terra cotta clay or colorful glaze that decorates earthenware. If it is not baked properly, it can leach into the food or liquids contained in the pottery. Furthermore, with the daily wear and tear, the pottery can chip or crack enabling the lead to come in contact with the food. Many pottery makers, even overseas, are taking increasing measures to eliminate lead from ceramic glazes, but there are always risks.

So, we’re not telling you to dispose of all family heirlooms made of pottery or all the earthenware and ceramics purchased from abroad. We recommend, however, that you put these ceramics aside if you believe they might have some lead content. Use them for decorative purposes. Just don’t use them for cooking or holding food or beverages.

If you live in a home built before 1978 when the federal government banned lead-based paint in residential housing or you fear other routes of exposure, you can have blood test to allay your fears. Lead poisoning in children is preventable. A simple blood test is the first step.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.

El plomo en la cerámica

Siempre me han gustado las cerámicas y vasijas hechas de cristal vidriado. Las vasijas coloridas vendidas por artesanos en mercados en Estados Unidos y el exterior siempre me han atraído. Incluso hay algunas recetas especiales que requieren estas cazuelas de cerámica como las cazuelas de mariscos, por ejemplo, entre otras.

Mientras algunas de estas cerámicas y vajillas se encuentran en muchas cocinas, existe el riesgo de que algunas de estas piezas de cerámica pueden contener un elemento peligroso—el plomo [http://www.epa.gov/espanol/saludhispana/plomo.htm] Sí, el plomo es un metal pesado que tiene efectos de salud dañinos especialmente en los bebés y niños pequeños. El plomo puede ocasionar daño al cerebro y al sistema nervioso en niños pequeños. También ocasiona problemas de comportamiento y aprendizaje y sordera. En adultos, puede ocasionar problemas en el sistema reproductivo o hipertensión. A pesar de que el polvo y pedazos de la pintura vieja a base de plomo son las principales fuentes de exposición, este metal tóxico puede provenir de otras fuentes también. El plomo ocasionalmente se utiliza en el barro terra cotta o el barniz colorido que decora envases de cristal vidriado. Si no se hornea adecuadamente, puede contaminar los alimentos o líquidos contenidos en estas vasijas o cerámicas. Además, como parte del uso y desgaste diario, estas vasijas se pueden descascarar o agrietar lo cual facilitaría el contacto del plomo con los alimentos. Muchos de los alfareros, aún los que trabajan en el exterior, están empezando a tomar mayores medidas de seguridad para eliminar el plomo de los barnices, pero todavía pueden existir riesgos a la salud.

Por lo tanto, no estamos insistiendo en disponer de todas esas cerámicas y vasijas del tiempo de nuestras abuelas o que compramos en el extranjero. [http://www.pubmedcentral.nih.gov/articlerender.fcgi?artid=1247400] Sin embargo, recomendamos que no utilice estas cazuelas para cocinar ni guardar alimentos. Sólo utilícelos para propósitos decorativos.

Si usted vive en una residencia construida antes de 1978 cuando el gobierno federal prohibió el uso de la pintura a ase de plomo en residencias privadas o si usted teme otras vías de exposición, usted puede pedirle a su médico que le haga la prueba de sangre para el plomo para calmar su preocupación. El envenenamiento por plomo en niños se puede prevenir. [http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/spanish/sp_plomo.htm] Una prueba de sangre es el primer paso.

Sobre la autor: Lina M. F. Younes ha trabajado en la EPA desde el 2002 y está a cargo del Grupo de Trabajo sobre Comunicaciones Multilingües. Como periodista, dirigió la oficina en Washington de dos periódicos puertorriqueños y ha laborado en varias agencias gubernamentales.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.