Pottery and other products may contain hidden lead


             Tekla Dennison Miller           


    Our attention has been so captivated by the fear of terrorism and the war in Iraq we tend to ignore the everyday items that can have a negative impact on our health.  For instance although most of us are aware of the dangers for children exposed to lead, we are naive about the sources of lead that exist today and the conditions adults face after lead has accumulated in their systems. Most information about lead sources focuses on paint and water. Recently consumers have learned that lead can also be found in our soil, ceramic glazes, childrenís lunch boxes, library toys and jewelry. My story is one about our naivetť regarding this issue and what I have learned due to my own battle with lead toxicity. I hope it will encourage others to further educate themselves to become aware of the dangers that still exist in our daily lives.

    Lead toxicity is a silent disease that can remain symptom free for years. These symptoms may be helped once identified but rarely reversed. I suspect many adults unknowingly suffer from illnesses caused from lead toxicity. I am one of those. I had become depressed by a rapid decline in my health and unexplained weight gain, especially when I have always eaten a healthy diet and exercise every day. My regular physicians explained away my conditions as related to aging (Iím now 63) and arthritis. None ever suggested an environmental cause. Yet doctors happily gave me another prescription drug to cover up the ailments rather than help fix them.   After struggling with these ailments, and after my personal physician left the area, I was finally referred to a physician who coincidentally is an expert in environmental toxicity. He reviewed my litany of ailments, most of which surfaced around March, 2003, and for which there was neither a family nor personal historyĖhigh blood pressure, a hypothyroid, 7% decrease in bone density (my tests had always shown me to be above average for my age), severe abdominal and digestive problems, not absorbing nutrients, worsening of my osteoarthritis, lack of stamina and mood swings/anger. I felt like a hypochondriac. At my doctorís suggestion, I took a nine-hour urine collection test. The results showed I had very elevated lead in my system. I then started EDTA Chelation treatment to remove the lead. After 40 treatments, the lead lingered at an elevated range so my doctor suggested I test all the ceramics in my house.

    I purchased a lead testing kit at a local hardware store. To my surprise I discovered that the ceramic dishes I purchased in April 2002 at a reputable department store tested positive for lead. I had used these dishes every day. I then had them tested by a professional whose test meets EPA guidelines. The dishes had an extremely high level of lead content (ten times allowed in water). Since it is illegal to have any lead in ceramics in the U.S., you can imagine my surprise. Then the anger set in when I realized that although lead had most likely accumulated slightly in my system over many years, it was within a year of buying these dishes that all my severe health problems surfaced. The more I thought about the neglect displayed by the department store the angrier I became. I wondered how many families with children were also eating from these dishes.

    Since that time I have encouraged everyone I know to buy the lead testing kit at the hardware store or on line at I also urge everyone to go to both the FDA web site (select import alert from the right column) and the EPA site  The information on these sites is invaluable for anyone no matter the age wishing to understand the potential danger of lead and other metal toxicities in our environment. The pages of companies and products listed on the FDA Alert stunned me. Their numbers should alarm everyone, yet these only indicate a small percentage of contaminated products.
    For further medical information go to the web sites for the Mayo and Cleveland clinics. I encourage everyone to be proactive. The consumer cannot rely on the knowledge or protection from our government or any department store.

    In all fairness to our government, it is impossible to test every item in all the containers entering our ports every day. The government has admitted this flaw in port security when questioned about possible terrorist activity. If they canít stop unwanted items from coming into our country with that kind of threat, donít expect much help when it comes to detecting lead in products. However, I do believe it is incumbent upon the buyers for every store to make themselves aware of the FDA Alerts, which should then give them concern about any product from a listed supplier country. I hope Iíve added some insight to the issue. The good news is that I am nearly back to my old energetic self and plan to stay this way.