Q: What types of healthy, environmentally safe dishware can you recommend? —Pia Zadora, Beverly Hills, California
A: Dinnerware and glassware made from recycled glass is the safest and most environmentally sound choice because it uses the fewest new resources. Recycled glass dishware is often handmade from old soda bottles, glass bottles, and jars. You’ll find a variety of colors and styles in the kitchenware section of many import and natural foods stores. Fire and Light makes simple designs in beautiful shades of translucent glass. Clear- or colored-glass dishware and glassware are also safe options, but they can’t be recycled.
Pottery made with recycled, lead-free glaze is another resource-saving pick. During firing, glaze that runs off the pottery is collected and put back into the glazing pot. Local potters are often a good source of imaginative designs, and you can ask them directly about their materials. Lead-free glazes are becoming almost standard among craftspeople concerned about their safety. Heath Ceramics features some lead-free, recycled-glaze pottery in beautiful, modern designs.
Brightly colored pottery imported from foreign countries is most likely to contain lead. However, standard china may also have lead glazes. If you’re unsure, ask the salesperson or contact the manufacturer. If this isn’t possible, you can test the dishes yourself with a LeadCheck swab. Generally, patterns with bright colors contain lead, while white and subdued earth tones do not. Lead crystal also contains the heavy metal, which can leach into food and beverages.
Debra Lynn Dadd is an internationally known expert on healthy home environments and author of Home Safe Home (Tarcher/Penguin, 2004)