Dress up the table for your Valentine’s meal

Know when and how to use your beautiful crystal glassware and pottery.

Valentine’s Day is a day of love. Why not prepare a special home cooked meal served on those special dishes that you rarely use? If you decide to dress up your table by using some of your beautiful lead crystal glasses or lead-glazed pottery, use them with caution. Lead is a poisonous metal and can be transferred from lead crystal containers and lead-glazed pottery into the beverages or food stored in them. If they are used for short periods, such as at a meal, the lead does not have time to leach into the liquid or food from the glass or pretty dish. No amount of washing or boiling will eliminate the lead.

Regular use of leaded crystal glassware is not recommended for anyone, but lead is more dangerous for children and pregnant women than the average adult. Lead is known to have harmful effects on fetal development, including learning disabilities and developmental delays. Lead poisoning usually builds up over time and when this occurs with children it can lead to anemia, developmental delays, growth problems, hearing loss and other serious health problems.

When it comes to stoneware, which is any dish or container made from clay and includes ceramics, the culprit usually is a lead-based glaze that is applied to decorate and seal tiny absorbent openings on the surface.

The possibility of lead poisoning from the use of stoneware most often occurs when the dishes are highly decorated, hand crafted, antique, brightly colored or have a warning label. Michigan State University Extension has the following recommendations to help prevent exposure to lead.

  • Never store acidic food in lead crystal or lead-glazed stoneware.
  • Avoid or limit the use of antique or collectible housewares for food and beverages. If any of your stoneware pieces are heirlooms, use them for display instead of dinner. The older your stoneware, the more likely it is that it contains lead due to lack of past regulation.
  • Never use any dishes for food preparation or even serving if it shows signs that the glaze has deteriorated.
  • Hand crafted stoneware increases the likelihood that a glaze was made, applied or fired improperly.
  • Be especially wary of brightly colored stoneware. Lead is often used to maximize the intensity of bright colors when applied to pottery.
  • Pay attention to the warning labels that indicates the piece of stoneware is intended for decorative purposes only.

Enjoy your Valentines meal and enjoy your crystal and pottery, just be cautious and follow the above suggestions from MSU Extension.

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