colorful dinnerware
Health & Wellness

How a New Set of Dishes Caused My Anxiety to Spiral

I have mild anxiety.

I am pretty sure I’ve had it my whole life.

And it has reared its ugly head many many times throughout the past several years. Especially while trying to conceive, throughout my entire pregnancy, and since becoming a Mom.

Since this is something I’ve always struggled with, I’ve become much better at identifying and naming it when it’s happening.

Sometimes I understand and can trace it back to a particular event that might have triggered it. Other times, it comes on so suddenly and unexpectedly, that I feel like a deer caught in the headlights.

Such an event happened this past Sunday, after a family trek to Janesville for a little peruse around the Goodwill. Why on Earth would we drive to Janesville to shop at Goodwill you ask? Because we were bored. And also because we love thrifting together as a family.

This particular trip to Janesville didn’t yield any “amazing” deals, like some visits in the past have. However, I did wind up piecing together a new set of dishes that I really liked.

I wasn’t planning to purchase new dishes. In fact, we just bought a new set last summer when our kitchen remodel was complete. I bought a fun set of Corelle dinnerware at that time. Because I thought it would be wise to get some “unbreakable” dishes with a small child in the house.

We learned the hard way (or really my husband did) when my son chucked one of our nice bowls across the kitchen after finishing his oatmeal one morning. As you might imagine, the bowl shattered on the kitchen floor. And that was the last time we served him anything on “the good china”.

We are hosting Thanksgiving this year, so I thought it would be fun to have some new (to us) dishes to set the table. So, when I saw a variety of brightly colored stoneware on the shelves at Goodwill, ranging in price from $.50-$2.99 a piece, I decided to build a new set for the occasion.

I was able to snag 8 coordinating dinner and salad plates. But they only had two bowls that worked with the set on the shelves there. I bought those two, figuring I could look for six more on future trips to Goodwill. And also planned to look online to see if there were any available elsewhere.

After putting the kiddo to bed that night, I took to my phone to search the inter-webs for “Royal Norfolk Colored Dinnerware”.

Royal Norfolk sounds fancy, however, a quick Google search told me you could find this brand at the Dollar Tree.

A few Ebay links came up as well, with people selling sets of 4 cups for $24.99. Only one posting was for the bowls I had bought. A single bowl available for $3.99 o.b.o. However, shipping was $13.99. No thanks.

What I didn’t expect to see in my search results, however, were several articles related to lead in dinnerware.

In searching to complete my new set of dishes, the following headlines popped up. “Getting the Lead Out“, by the Chicago Tribune. And “13 Investigates: Lead in Your Dishes“, posted by a TV station in Indianapolis.

The one that jumped out at me the most though was: “Mystery Ingredient in Chinese Product Could Hurt You” on the Pocono Record. (Mind you, I have no idea what that is.)

And so it began.

The panic started to set in.

What had I done?

If you also have anxiety, you know Google can be your WORST ENEMY. It can quickly send you down a rabbit hole.

Which it did.

I clicked on every single one of those links and read each article in detail.

Then I conducted a new search: “Lead in Ceramic Dishes”.

A whole slew of related articles came up. With similarly alarming headlines.

Beware of Lead in Ceramic Kitchenware” on foodsafetynews.com. Or “Can Your Ceramic Cookware Give You Lead Poisoning” from NPR.

NPR!

What. The. Fuck.

I could feel myself spiraling.

I was worried I’d made a terrible mistake buying dishes from Goodwill. Something people probably do on a daily basis. And don’t have a panic attack about it.

I tried to put my phone down and go to bed. But I couldn’t stop reading.

And stewing.

My fun new dishes, which I had just put in the dishwasher on the “Sanitize” cycle, could potentially give us all LEAD POISONING.

Then, I started to wonder if our current dishes also contained lead. The ones we’ve been eating off of for the past year and a half.

So, I Googled that too. And sure enough, Corelle uses lead-based paint in their ceramics as well. Though their web site states that their products do not exceed the “allowable” levels.

Why is any amount of lead allowable in tableware at all?

In any sense, this information was rather unsettling.

And even a few days later, the dishes are still sitting in the dishwasher. Because I’m not sure if I even want to use them now.

Is it really worth the risk?

Or am I over-reacting?

I imagine I’ve been eating off of dishes that have “leached” lead into my body my entire life.

Here is the thing though. Having a kid is a game-changer. I’ve tried to limit my child’s exposure to chemicals since pre-conception, when I swore off all beauty and personal care products with sulfates, parabens and phthalates. Which was the result of another instance in which I randomly happened upon some information that sent me spiraling.

I don’t want to do anything that may cause him harm.

Though our “new” dishes didn’t make it onto the FDA’s list of suspect dinnerware, I am still faced with a choice now that I am armed with this new knowledge of leachable lead in dishes.

1. Keep the dishes and pray they don’t kill us all.

2. Purchase a lead testing kit from Menard’s and swab those fuckers to see if they contain lead. And then decide what to do from there.

3. Try to sell them on Ebay and wish the buyer the best.

I already removed the tags and washed them all, so returning them to Goodwill is no longer an option.

What would you do if you were me?

Call me crazy, but I never knew this was something I needed to worry about. Yet, worried I now am.

How about you? Were you aware of the prevalence of lead in dishes?

6 thoughts on “How a New Set of Dishes Caused My Anxiety to Spiral

  1. I’m in a similar Google rabbit hole right now, and your article popped up in the results. What did you finally decide to do with the dinnerware you’d purchased from Goodwill? Did you keep your old dinnerware? Purchase something new and hopefully non-toxic?

    1. Hi Angela!

      I know how easy it is to go down that hole! I actually wound up keeping the dishes. We’ve been using them as our primary dishes ever since. I just try not to heat them in the microwave with food on them. Not always possible, but that seems to be how the lead leaches out the most if they do contain lead. I do run them through the dishwasher though, so I’m sure small amounts can leach out that way too. But we don’t use them while hot.

      From what I read, the trace amounts that may leach shouldn’t be harmful and as long as we are mindful of how we use them, they should be safe.

      Are you looking at that same brand? Or a different one? What did you decide?

      Thanks for reading!
      Alicia

      1. Good to know! We have an old set that my late mother-in-law gifted my husband 20+ years ago. It’s very colorful, and that color has been steadily chipped and scratched away over years of use (and likely into our food, gah!). It’s long past time to replace them, but I hate the idea of dropping a few hundred dollars on a new set.

        Someone recently suggested Royal Norfolk for it’s price point and durability. But, like you, I am far more cautious these days with my kiddo’s health to consider as well. We also reheat a lot of leftovers in our house and absolutely use a dishwasher. We work from home and home-school our son, so all meals take place here–even more so than usual with the pandemic.

        In my search I also found another blogger, Tamara Rubin, who has XRF equipment and the training and certification to use it. She tests a lot of things, including dinnerware, and posts her results. She’s tested several Royal Norfolk plates too, and while they’re not ALL lead-free, it turns out a few of them have very low or non-detectable levels. Here’s a link if you’d like to see if she has tested the kind you bought: https://tamararubin.com/category/dollar-tree/page/3/

        Tamara also recommended a plain white Corelle set (minus the mugs, which are made of different materials). It’s a little pricier than the Royal Norfolk, but still more reasonable than the HF Coors brand I was considering selling a kidney for. : P If I can find some extra large soup/salad bowls, I’ll be set!

        Thanks for replying! I’m enjoying your blog! : )

        1. Thanks so much for the additional info! I did not see my exact dishes on her site, but I found it fascinating to see how many brands do contain lead, including Mikasa and Corelle. Yikes! I think it’s one of those things were there is always a slight risk of exposure because we just don’t necessarily know what they are all made of. My mom basically told me to “get a grip” when I first called her in a panic about these dishes. She reminded me that we’ve basically been eating trace amounts of lead our whole lives, and are (for the most part), fine. She said this has been an issue since she was raising kids 40 years ago. Who knew?

          I say, just get some dishes you love and don’t worry about the rest. 🙂 We have enough to worry about these days!

          Good luck. 🙂

          1. The Royal Norfolk tableware pieces (modern) are generally Lead-safe or Lead-free. Some of their holiday decorative pieces (like Christmas) can be very high Lead and Cadmium. I do the testing and reporting I do to help others protect their children, because my children have permanent brain damage from being lead poisoned as babies. So while I don’t think anyone should “worry” about their dishes, I do think it is normally very inexpensive and easy to choose Lead-free dishes. This is one of my (several) overview posts on the subject: https://tamararubin.com/2019/12/asktamara-which-dishes-are-lead-free/

            Please let me know if you have any questions.

            Also here’s a post I wrote in response to the parents and grandparents who say “we’re all fine”: https://tamararubin.com/2015/02/fine/

          2. This is so helpful Tamara! Thank you for responding. I am so sorry to hear that your kiddos suffered from lead poisoning! That is awful and I can certainly understand why sharing information about lead poisoning is important to you.

            It’s also a bit alarming just how many dishes you have found to contain lead and other harmful chemicals. I did look again at the tests you’ve fun for Royal Norfolk and found the that we do own two flat red plates that looks like the one you tested that did contain amounts of lead and cadmium. We have two of those same style in turquoise too. Is it safe to assume that they also contain lead then? Does color matter?

            The Corelle dishes I bought after my son was born also have a decorative pattern and aren’t plain white so I suspect, based on what I read from your assessment that they do too. Argh! Why are companies still allowed to produce dishes containing ANY amount of lead? It makes no sense if they know it is harmful to our health.

            Alicia

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