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Last updated on November 6th, 2017
When outfitting your kitchen, you may have a lot of questions, such as: Does glass used in cookware, dinnerware or storage containers contain lead? Does it leach other heavy metals such as aluminum and cadmium? Is glassware the safest material? These are very good questions. Let’s try to answer them and go over some lead free glassware options.
First, it is important to know that there are different types of glass material. Typical glass is called soda lime glass. And Pyrex glass storage containers and glass baking dishes are made with soda lime glass. Pyrex was acquired by World Kitchen in 1998.
Lead Free Glassware Composition
I called and emailed World Kitchen and, unfortunately, they do not disclose the materials with which their soda lime glass is made. They recommended searching on the Internet, which I did and my blog came up (which I found extremely illuminating) (just kidding, kind of).
And according to Wikipedia, “soda-lime glass is prepared by melting the raw materials, such as sodium carbonate (soda), lime, dolomite, silicon dioxide(silica), aluminium oxide (alumina), and small quantities of fining agents (e.g., sodium sulfate, sodium chloride) in a glass furnace at temperatures locally up to 1675 °C.”
Before 1998, Pyrex was made of borosilicate glass by Corning. European Pyrex, called Pyroflam, is still made of borosilicate glass, which is more heat resistant. However, when it is dropped, it shatters into tiny particles instead of breaking into pieces.
According to Wikipedia, borosilicate Pyrex is composed of the following (as a percentage of weight): 4.0% boron, 54.0% oxygen, 2.8% sodium, 1.1% aluminum, 37.7% silicon, and 0.3% potassium.
Does glassware leach aluminum?
As you might have noticed, both types of glasses contain small amounts of aluminum. I do not have much information on how much aluminum leaches into food. I found two studies here and here that pointed to the fact that trace amounts of aluminum can leach into the contents.
I wish I could hear from the makers of Pyrex themselves about the composition of Pyrex glass and what may be leaching.
In the meantime, I am not very concerned about the possibility of aluminum leaching. I have a feeling if there is any leaching, the amounts should be minimal. Unlike lead, which has no safe amounts, our bodies can tolerate bigger amounts of aluminum before it becomes toxic. I have had challenge heavy metal tests done twice, and no aluminum was found in my body either time, and we use Pyrex all the time.
On the other hand, I have elevated amounts of lead stored in my body over the years, so I am very concerned about exposure to materials containing lead. So let’s talk about lead.
Leaded Crystal Glass
Lead is not part of glass composition. The only type of glass that is known to be made with lead is leaded crystal. Lead is used to impart the crystal effect. Leaded crystal is used to make wine decanters. This study found that storing wine in them for one day would pose a hazard. I would not store wine in them at all. I do not think the study took into consideration that lead accumulates in the body and there are multiple ways we can be exposed to lead that we can’t control.
Lead in Colored Glass
Colored glass or glass with something painted on it may contain lead or cadmium. For example, Tamara Rubin, the founder of the Lead Safe America Foundation, tested a Pyrex measuring cup and found elevated levels of lead in the painted markings on the outside.
Tamara also tested newer blue Ball mason jars and found some lead in them. However, she found that Ball is the most consistently lead-free brand. Thus, when using mason jars, it is best to use clear plain glass without any painted features, and I recommend the Ball brand.
Based on my research and the results of Tamara’s tests, please find a list of glass products that I recommend.
Lead Free Glassware Options
Lead free Glassware Dinnerware
Corelle plates and bowls are made in the USA with Vitrelle® glass. Mugs are made in China with stoneware. While World Kitchen assured me that all their products are tested for heavy metals and were found to comply with California’s Prop. 65 limits, they would not show me the proof of that. Tamara Rubin tested Corelle plates, bowls, and mugs and found some lead in the mugs.
I recommend when buying plates and bowls that you go for plain without painted decorations, which may contain lead or cadmium. Unfortunately, at this point, the dinnerware industry is not very transparent. We use and like the set below.
Lead Free Glassware Mugs, Storage Containers, and Tools
This might be a surprising recommendation, but we have been using Ball mason jars as drinking glasses (some restaurants do, too) and as storage containers for years now. Tamara Rubin of Lead Safe America tested mason jars and found that the Ball brand mason jars were consistently the least likely to contain lead. Avoid colored ones as they tested positive for lead.
These are the Ball Mason jars we use for drinking and storing food. Make sure you wash and wipe lids to avoid rusting, but do not put them in the dishwasher, and do not let food or liquid touch the lid as the lids may contain BPA or other bisphenol chemicals.
I store homemade broths or tomato sauce in the bigger jars.
This mason jar soap dispenser looks like a fun idea.
If you are not enthusiastic about using mason jars for drinking, these mugs are deemed safe by Tamara Rubin.
These glass mugs are made by another reputable glass company and like Pyrex are made in the US.
Make sure you follow the manufacturer’s instructions to avoid breakage; we have never had a problem.
Lead free glassware Pyrex mixing bowls that we use
As tested by Tamara Rubin of Lead Safe America, the red markings on the Pyrex measuring cup may contain lead. These are two glass measuring cups without red markings made in the US.
Lead-Free Glassware Cookware
Visions cookware is made of glass ceramic. The cookware is made in France and the lids are made in China. The ceramic component of the glass makes it withstand extreme temperatures and be used on a stove top. The Natural Baby Mama tested Visions cookware for lead and cadmium with XRF technology and found none. According to her, older cookware, about 10 years old, contained heavy metals. Also, one of my blog readers shared her experience with nickel poisoning that she believed came from Visions cookware. They had used a vintage version. I am not saying that the software caused nickel poisoning. I am just passing along the comment without adding to it.
We have not used Visions yet. If you do, please share your experience in the comments.
Thus, I believe plain non-colored non-painted glass is a safer option for dinnerware and cookware. I hope this clarifies your safer options and makes your life a little easier.
For more information on other types of cookware, visit here.
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