California Agriculture
California Agriculture
California Agriculture
University of California
California Agriculture

Archive

Research update: UC offers lead test around state

Share using any of the popular social networks Share by sending an email Print article
Share using any of the popular social networks Share by sending an email Print article

Authors

Editors

Publication Information

California Agriculture 48(7):9-9.

Published December 01, 1994

PDF  |  Citation  |  Permissions

Full text

For the past few years, UC Cooperative Extension offices around the state have been offering what they call the “UC Quick Lead Test,” a 20-minute test which can determine whether a piece of pottery or ceramic ware is leaching lead.

Many pottery glazes contain lead, which adds color, texture and luster. When properly fired — or heated to a high enough temperature for a long enough time — the metals become incorporated into the glaze and are resistant to acid leaching.

But some pottery isn't properly prepared or fired. Glazes that are cracked or worn can also cause leaching of lead when they come into contact with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, according to UC Home Economist Shirley Peterson.

In 1991, concerned about the health effects of lead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidelines concerning pottery and ceramics manufactured in, or imported to, the United States. Pottery made in the United States, or foreign pottery imported through FDA-approved channels, are screened for leachable lead. Not all pottery or ceramics manufactured in foreign countries meet FDA standards. Tourists and military may bring home dishware from foreign countries, which are not subjected to the screening process, but may contain leachable lead. Lead can also be found in antiques.

The UC lead test, which is adapted from an FDA test, uses a mixture of citric acid, “about as strong as lemonade,” which is placed on all colors in the pottery that come into contact with food, Peterson said. After standing for 20 minutes, some of this citric acid is transferred to filter paper, where it is tested with rhodizonic acid, which turns from goldenrod to pink on contact with lead. The darker the pink, the more lead is there.

UC's 20-minute lead test uses citric acid to determine the presence of leachable lead in pottery.

Cooperative Extension originally offered the test at a Davis farmers' market and the Sacramento County Extension Office. Of 92 pieces tested, they found more than 6% leached lead, many of them pieces from Mexico, in which the glaze had been poorly or incompletely applied, and the pieces gave a “thunk” when tapped, which is indicative of ceramic ware fired at a low temperature.

Peterson said the lead tests are available at many of the Cooperative Extension offices. In addition, they can be obtained commercially for people who are concerned about the safety of their ceramic ware.

Editor

Return to top

Research update: UC offers lead test around state

Webmaster Email: wsuckow@ucanr.edu

Research update: UC offers lead test around state

Share using any of the popular social networks Share by sending an email Print article
Share using any of the popular social networks Share by sending an email Print article

Authors

Editors

Publication Information

California Agriculture 48(7):9-9.

Published December 01, 1994

PDF  |  Citation  |  Permissions

Full text

For the past few years, UC Cooperative Extension offices around the state have been offering what they call the “UC Quick Lead Test,” a 20-minute test which can determine whether a piece of pottery or ceramic ware is leaching lead.

Many pottery glazes contain lead, which adds color, texture and luster. When properly fired — or heated to a high enough temperature for a long enough time — the metals become incorporated into the glaze and are resistant to acid leaching.

But some pottery isn't properly prepared or fired. Glazes that are cracked or worn can also cause leaching of lead when they come into contact with acidic foods, such as tomatoes, according to UC Home Economist Shirley Peterson.

In 1991, concerned about the health effects of lead, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued new guidelines concerning pottery and ceramics manufactured in, or imported to, the United States. Pottery made in the United States, or foreign pottery imported through FDA-approved channels, are screened for leachable lead. Not all pottery or ceramics manufactured in foreign countries meet FDA standards. Tourists and military may bring home dishware from foreign countries, which are not subjected to the screening process, but may contain leachable lead. Lead can also be found in antiques.

The UC lead test, which is adapted from an FDA test, uses a mixture of citric acid, “about as strong as lemonade,” which is placed on all colors in the pottery that come into contact with food, Peterson said. After standing for 20 minutes, some of this citric acid is transferred to filter paper, where it is tested with rhodizonic acid, which turns from goldenrod to pink on contact with lead. The darker the pink, the more lead is there.

UC's 20-minute lead test uses citric acid to determine the presence of leachable lead in pottery.

Cooperative Extension originally offered the test at a Davis farmers' market and the Sacramento County Extension Office. Of 92 pieces tested, they found more than 6% leached lead, many of them pieces from Mexico, in which the glaze had been poorly or incompletely applied, and the pieces gave a “thunk” when tapped, which is indicative of ceramic ware fired at a low temperature.

Peterson said the lead tests are available at many of the Cooperative Extension offices. In addition, they can be obtained commercially for people who are concerned about the safety of their ceramic ware.

Editor

Return to top


University of California, 2801 Second Street, Room 184, Davis, CA, 95618
Email: calag@ucanr.edu | Phone: (530) 750-1223 | Fax: (510) 665-3427
Website: http://calag.ucanr.edu