Most glass does not contain lead. Only lead crystal contains lead. The other types of glass are fine to use every day.
Lead crystal is made from a blend of silica sand, lead oxide and other agents. The addition of lead gives the glass the sparkle, clarity, and weight that makes crystal glassware so popular. When properly cut, lead crystal has the ability to disperse light into the color components of the visible spectrum brilliance that is almost diamond-like. It is widely used to make glassware and decanters for storing and serving beverages.
The amount of lead in glassware can range from 4% to 34%. Most crystal sold today contains about 24% lead.
While lead crystal has been used for over three hundred years, scientists today have found that when crystal comes in contact with acidic beverages, some lead dissolves into the liquid. The amount depends on the amount of lead in the crystal, the type of beverage, and the length of time they are in contact with each other.
Acidic beverages such as port or wine and non-alcoholic fruit juices and soft drinks will dissolve more lead from crystal than less acidic drinks like scotch or vodka. Generally, the longer a beverage sits inside a crystal container, the more lead is absorbed by the liquid.
The actual amount of lead released from crystal glasses over the course of a normal meal, however, tends to be low. Tests show that the resulting lead levels in both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks are usually well below 200 parts per billion, whereas beverages stored in crystal decanters can accumulate up to 20 parts per million. There is no safe level for exposure to lead.
Exposure to even small amounts of lead can be harmful. Long- term exposure to increased lead levels may produce flu-like symptoms, such as lack of appetite, fatigue, irritability, headaches, joint pain and neurological disorders. During pregnancy, serious illness, or other stress,.bones may release increased amounts of lead into the bloodstream. Lead also can lead to kidney problems, affecting one of the body's major organs of detoxification. Children and developing fetuses are particularly at risk.
The best way to reduce the risk of lead exposure from lead crystal is, of course, to simply not use it at all. If you want to continue to drink from lead crystal, here are some ways to reduce your lead exposure:
Do not drink from crystal if you are pregnant
- Use decanters only for serving--do not store alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages in them.
- Before the first use,soak new crystal in vinegar for 24 hours and follow with a thorough rinsing to remove some of the surface lead.
- Do not wash crystal in a dishwasher--harsh detergents can increase the release of lead.
- Limit the use of crystal to special occasions.
Do not feed an infant or child from a lead crystal baby bottle or cup
National Safety Council
An excellent fact sheet on lead that tells the health effects and some surprising and unsuspected exposures to lead--like children's candy and calcium supplements...
FDA: Dangers of Lead Still Linger
Health effects and sources of lead exposure