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Healthy in the kitchen, ceramics and the risk of lead release

Healthy in the kitchen, ceramics and the risk of lead release

July 19, 2020
Is ceramics safe for storing food? Let's see in which cases lead can release and what consequences lead has on health
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Health in the plate ... but this does not just reduce to which foods we decide to serve and how we cook them. Even the materials with which the foods come into contact can make a difference. In particular, it is necessary to pay some attention to the plates and bowls that are used. Today we talk about ceramics and the risk of lead contamination.


Ceramics are often chosen in the form of plates or bowls to decorate the home or as a food container. A ceramic plate is easy to maintain, it is colorful and ornamental. Generally, the ceramic is produced with clays and then, especially if it will contain food, it is glazed in order to seal the pores. This thin enameled layer can contain lead in order to facilitate the fusion of the various particles that make up the enamel. If the ceramic is produced correctly, and therefore it is exposed to the right temperature, neither too low nor too high, and for the right period of time, then the lead is completely incorporated in the final product and will hardly be transferred to the food. If this should happen, we are talking about quantities that are too small to be a risk (FDA, Food and drug administration). However, nowadays, it is possible to find ceramics produced without lead, in this case it is generally indicated on the label. In the other cases, now several countries including the European Union and the United States have established lead limits that are released to food making the ceramic containers certainly safer.

Ceramics and lead

It can happen, however, especially with old ceramic products, but also with ceramics whose origin is uncertain or with plates and bowls imported from countries where the same health rules do not apply, that ceramics release higher levels of lead than allowed. This can be observed, especially, with yellow, red or orange decorations and if a very hot or acidic food is placed in the ceramic container, such as juices, tomato sauces or wine (de Mejia et al, Arch Environ Contam Toxicol, 1996). In the case of dry and cold food, the risk is less.

Lead and the damage it can do to health

Lead is a heavy metal. If lead is introduced into the body in very small quantities, there is no health risk. However, in case of exposure to high levels or, more likely, in case of exposure for a long period of time, intoxication may occur. Lead poisoning can cause cardiovascular problems, hypertension and imbalances in the synthesis of hemoglobin, causing anemia, and in the metabolism of vitamin D. Not only that, it can also interfere with the functioning of the liver and the kidneys (Rebeniak et al, Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig, 2014 - Fralick et al, CMAJ, 2016). In addition, lead is also neurotoxic especially in children (Diaz Ruiz et al, Nutr Neurosci, 2017).

Ceramics, conclusions

Therefore, given what stated in the previous paragraphs, it is important to use ceramic plates and containers whose origin is guaranteed and that come from countries such as the European Union or the United States, where the laws for the release of lead are applied. In addition to this, these ceramics should possibly have on the label that they are suitable for containing food. If the origin is uncertain, it is better to avoid using dishes with yellow, red or orange decorations that are generally produced with lead. And avoid keeping acidic and hot foods inside! That kind of dishes is preferable to hang on the wall!

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