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 Or “Can Your Ceramic Cookware Give You Lead Poisoning” from 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?

22 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!

      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:

        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:

            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”:

          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.


      2. I get the same way about these things. But worse, I have been in the mindset that they had solved this lead dish problem since they exposed it all in a serious documentary as far back as 1971. So now I am doing a repeat rabbit hole! The past 2 weeks since reading Leadsafe mamas new findings I just threw away some of the dishes we had in the house and am using Dollar tree white Royal Nor. Until I can find otherwise. But the craziness doesn’t stop there. Stainless steel can be bad if it’s not 304 FOODGRADE. So be careful with that. LIBBEY glass is a lead free old glassware/bakeware company I am going to replace a lot of items with. Mugs are a complete nightmare because I am finding glass ones (though non toxic) can just burst spontaneously from temperature shock, and stainless steel , well, it can be pot luck what we are getting . These companies are very clever and deceptive in the stainless industry. Nothing is stamped 304 food grade! I found one or 2 companies that stamps the bottom of their human and pet stainless steel bowls.Lakerwin and Americat. Reviews are one too many for rusting and discoloring. But my good guess is people like us are going to get this changed and the rest of those who “ sleep through” these realities will never know the difference. But we will be wiser and mind sharp! So the anxiety can really work for benefit. The right path and materials are there but money and unethical practices are too long the stronghold! I can’t believe this is still going on and WORSE!

        1. Hi Dave,

          Thanks for your comment! I agree, I did not realize this was still an issue…and it seems small amounts of lead can be found in many dishes, even trusted brands and nonvintage items. I will have to check out the new findings you posted about on Leadsafe Mamas…I might be pitching our Goodwill dishes too! We’ve been using the old Corelle ones, but given that they are patterned, I wonder about them as well. I have noticed that one of the Goodwill dishes in my post warped from the heat of either the dishwasher or microwave, which to me doesn’t seem super safe either. It’s hard to know what is safe in this case!

          Good luck sorting through it all…I know exactly how it feels to go down the rabbit hole!

          Take good care,

        2. If you’re that worried about mugs, just use Mason jars instead. I freeze sauces in them and then microwave them, pour boiling water into them for tea, use them for drinking (even outdoors, put a travel lid on them for coffee… I can’t remember the last time one broke and I’ve been using them for decades. When my kids were little, I used the 8oz quilted jelly jars for them to drink out of. They didn’t tip over nearly as easily as plastic (because they’re heavier) and not one ever broke. Best kitchen investment ever. (And you can accumulate more for “free” when you buy smaller companies’ spaghetti sauces and pickles.)

          1. Love this idea! My grandpa used to drink out of mason jars all the time! I’ve never used them for hot liquids though. Just cold ones.

    1. Hi Vicky!

      Thanks for your comment. No, unfortunately I don’t. We only have the dinner and salad plates in this set.


  2. I’ve been using Royal Norfolk dinnerware for decades and none of my children, grandchildren or myself have suffered from lead contamination. Please relax and enjoy your dishware.

    1. Glad to hear it! We have been using and enjoying the dishes…though I was surprised when one warped in the microwave. Beyond the initial panic attack, I’m okay with them now. 🙂

  3. Good morning! My daughter sent me Lead Free Mama’s website photos of the vintage Corelle dishes… I have “English Garden” and “Farm Fresh” designs… I’ve used them for decades! I’ve also used my mother’s Homer Laughlin soup/pasta bowls from the 50’s almost every day!
    I’ve never been tested for lead (maybe I should check my bloodwork to see if it’s routine) So I have no idea if my levels are elevated because of all the lead in my dishes that could be there. Since I learned of this, I called Corelle … they have yet to respond by email after looking into this…as promised…
    I also called Pfaltzgraff to find out about the mugs I have… and they assured me that they have always complied by US standards (which is still not very assuring!) Mikasa told me that my Brava Rooster dishes were made after the prop 65 levels were determined. Anyway… I think dishes made after 2005 are safer than the vintage plates. My grandmother’s beautiful dishes probably have a lot of lead (I’ll have to test one of them) but she only used them for very special occasions. I came to this website to check the Dollar Tree Norfolk mugs that I’ve hand painted as well as added Cricut designs to … to make sure they are lead free. I see the dinner plates were tested, but not the mugs … I hope these test okay as well! -Thanks for all the info here! ~ Maria

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with this topic Maria! It is a meaty one as I think most people are unaware (or simply don’t care). But I feel like it’s one that once you know, you can make safer choices. I agree, you are probably right – dishes made in recent years are most likely safe. But I think some brands more so than others. And any dishes with color or pattern are suspect.

      I have not been tested nor had my dishes tested either for lead. I think they just do that for kids these days unless you seek it out.

      Thanks for visiting!


  4. I have some Italian fine porcelain tea cups (Royal Alfreda is the company/brand), but we don’t use them. They’re just for decoration at this point. They have a gold rim, and also some red poppy flowers painted onto them. Actually, it looks more like graphic print on images more than actual hand painting. You can almost see pixels in the flowers. But anyways… 3.5 year old daughter was recently playing with one of the cups and put it to her lips just for a second or two before I put them away. This is probably a pathetic question, but do you think this would cause any type of lead leaching in that very short period touching her lips? No liquids or drinking was involved. I think all this Dr. Google talk has me paranoid, which is probably just as unhealthy! Very paranoid! I feel like I have to question everything. Also….which is the best way to actually even test for lead burden on the body? Blood is the go to method, but this doesn’t seem to actually test lead burden does it? Just what is circulating in the blood at the time.

    1. These are such good questions Petunia! I honestly don’t know. I went down the Google spiral when I first bought the dishes as well. I think you can order lead testing kits specifically for the dishes. From what I understand you swab them and then can tell if there is lead in them. For children, I believe you can ask your pediatrician to test them. Some cities have mandatory testing, like my home town. But anytime you suspect exposure, you can have their blood tested! You’ll have to ask them what the test all entails and if it will show burden or not. I personally don’t think a quick touch to the lips will do any harm. As my mother said, we’ve all had some level of lead exposure in our lifetime, whether it was through paint or dishes before they knew it was an issue!

  5. I agree! Honestly, google is the devil lol. It causes a lot of hysteria. I agree it’s great to be informed and know your options, but at the same time I feel like it’s a lot of fear mongering without 100% scientific knowledge behind it. I asked my doctor and she basically giggled. She said it’s absolutely fine and not something she would ever recommend testing for. And blood work can be a bit traumatic for small children to get frequently. It also doesn’t show body burden which most people think it does. It will show what is floating around in the blood yes, but it won’t show how much led has built up chronically, which is what everyone aims to know. Lead eventually stores in the bones, not the blood. Anyways, I think I’m ok with that happened and just won’t let it occur again. In the meantime just aiming to make the best choices I can and If I do want to monitor my child’s heavy metal blood levels, I’ll be conservative unless I know for sure there might have been significant exposure. Mental health is just as important as physical. The last think I would also want is my child having fear and anxiety over these things like I am having! Thanks for your response and sharing your experience with us 🙂

    1. Just a comment Petunia, about the physcian and lead testing. We come from a state where pediatricians routinely test at well-child visits for lead at specific age levels (due to rural/construction paint in some areas of the state). It was recommended state-wide because of such high levels (geographically concentrated, but those rural populations did move around so testing was statewide). Also – the lead blood test is just a finger prick and then squeeze for several seconds into a tiny stick. So not like regular blood work.

  6. I discovered my son had lead poisoning at age 15. It can cause all kinds of leaning problems in children of any age. He now has a nerve disorder. We do not know if the lead caused it or where he got the lead poisoning from to this day. I also just got rid of my Corelle dishes that i bought in 1998 and replaced them with the new white Corelle for $100 (16 pieces of each large, medium and small dishes and large and small bowls. They admitted that anything bought before 2009 had lead in them not just on them..

    1. Oh my goodness! I’m so sorry to hear you had direct experience with lead poisoning. I actually wound up donating those dishes back to Goodwill a year or so ago, and using a few of the plates under my plants. I just never fully felt comfortable with them. I wish this wasn’t a concern, but it is. And too many dishes are still made with them, or have trace amounts, when they shouldn’t be. I hope your son is doing okay…

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