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Why do people choose porcelain crockery

Author:    Source:    Date: 2016-04-25 11:03:46

Governments around the world clamped down on the amount of melamine allowed in food after these incidents (and by the way, melamine does appear in many food items in trace amounts).4 Both the World Health Organization and the European Union declared that a limit of a 0.2 mg/kg body weight was the daily tolerable intake (TDI). The US, though, saw no reason for alarm and so the FDA kept the TDI at .63 mg/kg for infant formula (three times the European limit), allowing 2.5 parts per million (ppm) in other foods. No regulation was imposed on dinnerware products since, after all, we don't normally eat our plates. But the recent study found that participants who consumed hot noodle soup from melamine bowls had more than eight times the amount of melamine in their urine 12 hours after the meal compared to those who used porcelain crockery. Even more alarming was the fact that those who used the melamine bowls far, far exceeded the FDA daily limits (.63 mg) for safe intake, at 8.35 mg.

Not all melamine is created equal, according to the study authors, who note that, "The amount of melamine released into food and beverages from melamine tableware varies by brand, so the results of this study of one brand may not be generalized to other brands." Nevertheless, the study sounds the alarm. Leeching of these toxic chemicals increases if the dishes are scratched or worn, or if they're used for hot or acidic foods or heated in the microwave.


The study makes it obvious that using melamine for plastic dinnerware probably isn't wise. But ceramic dishes also may pose a problem because glazes often contain inorganic heavy metals, particularly lead and/or cadmium that can be released into food. Inorganic lead can cause neurological problems, kidney damage, interference with bone and muscle growth, and learning disabilities as well as ADHD in children.5  Cadmium can cause osteoporosis, kidney damage, cancer, and lung disease.

In 1970, the FDA began testing dinnerware to ensure its safety, which means that any dishes from after that date are more likely to be in compliance with safety standards.6 The type of lead used in older dishes was more dangerous; now it's compounded and it's a bit less toxic. Still, most dinnerware today does contain lead and cadmium, and the FDA does allow that. In fact, an independent news station in Indiana conducted independent testing on 315 plates, bowls, and mugs from various retailers as well as some antiques.7 They found that 36 percent exceeded safety standards for lead content, and one out of ten contained more than 30 times the recommended maximum. The dishes failing the safety test came from a variety of countries, including the US, and even plain white plates were among the culprits.

But the FDA says it's not the amount of lead that matters; it's how much leaches out. When the news station did leaching tests, it found three of the 18 plates it tested exceeding the FDA standards. By the way, the FDA standards do allow minimal amounts of heavy metal leaching from dinnerware, which might concern you if you consider that the effects are cumulative and there are plenty of other sources that you may well be exposed to. In other words, even plates that passed the leaching test may not be so safe over the long haul.

That's particularly true once the glaze starts to break down. When you wash dishes in the dishwasher, over time the glaze starts to erode and then leaching can become significant. As with melamine, heat and acidic food also corrode the glaze. In other words, dishes that are relatively fine when you buy them may not be so safe a few years later. According to Sandy Spence, a spokeswoman for the Society of Glass and Ceramic Decorated Products, "If you have something that's old, if you have something that has little crackles in it, if you have something that's chipped, that could be a problem. Also, if you use a steak knife and you cut through the [plate's] surface, there could be something that comes through that little scratch. That's why it's better to use things that are not marked up. Let me put it this way ... if it's chipped, I wouldn't use it. If it's old and you found it in your grandma's attic, I might stay away from it."

Note that even china bone may pose a risk. One of the main sources of leaching is borders and decals, including fancy gold decorations. Any dishes with raised designs should be avoided if possible.
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