Chips and salsa and LEAD?

Avoiding lead exposure in unlikely places

One of these salsa dishes contains dangerous amounts of lead — can you guess which one?

Unfortunately you can’t tell just by looking.

Ceramic glazes with deep and brilliant color can contain lead. Imported, old, handmade, or poorly glazed ceramic dishes and pottery are at highest risk for having leaded glaze. Lead may also be found in leaded crystal, pewter and brass dishware.

Acidic foods like tomatoes, fruit juices, wines, and vinegar may cause lead to leach out of the glaze and contaminate food.

To keep your family safe:

  • Always buy dishes with labels stating the item is lead-free or suitable for food use.
  • Discontinue using any tableware that begins to show a dusty or chalky gray residue after washing.
  • Not sure if your dish contains lead? Stop using it for storing, cooking or serving food or drinks.

Children six years and younger are the most susceptible to damage from even very low levels of lead. Their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive and the effects can include lower IQ levels, reduced attention span, hyperactivity, poor school performance, and other physical and behavioral problems.

In Washington, the biggest source of lead exposure for children is found in homes built before 1978 when lead-based paint was still used. We want to Identify and reduce lead wherever it is found.

For more information on common lead sources and tips on preventing lead exposure, visit the DOH website.

Dish A

The glaze on this seemingly innocent looking salsa dish contains a whopping 5,590 parts per million of lead! The action level, as set by the Food and Drug Administration, is 600 parts per million.

You’ll be relieved to know the dish has been retired from food service.

Dish B

SURPRISE! This dish is lead free. When it was purchased, there was a small label stating it did not contain lead.

This dish continues to be an important part of Taco Tuesday!

Liz Coleman is environmental health communicator for the Department of Health’s Center for Public Affairs.

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