Lee and I received several sets of beautiful crystal glasses for our wedding. They have a wonderful weight and feel, and I felt it would be a shame to only pull them out for special occasions. So we made them our everyday drinking glasses and have enjoyed them for 6 years.
But what I didn’t know was that those glasses could have been slowly poisoning my family.
As part of my job, I just happened to drop by a local seminar about lead poisoning prevention one recent day. I wasn’t there for the whole event but did catch a portion of the presentation during which the state expert described a child who’d been lead-poisoned because his mother served him orange juice every morning in a leaded crystal glass. I thought about our glassware – but it’s new, and I rationalized that this unfortunate scenario probably involved some antique glasses. Glasses made before we knew any better.
But the Health Department held a free lead screening for toys this weekend, because we’d gotten so many calls from concerned parents worried about lead in toys. I was walking out the door to go to the grocery store, and at the last minute decided to grab one of our double-old-fashioned glasses to have it zapped. Just for peace of mind.
The lead technician performed the test and said, “Oh yes, it has lead in it. But I can’t tell you how much because it’s off the charts. More than my machine can register.”
What the hell?
I was mad. Partly I feel stupid for not having known better. I’d always heard the term “leaded crystal,” but again, I assumed that was an old term and no longer applied. Why would manufacturers still put lead in a product that is designed to go into your mouth, knowing of the potential risks? Am I missing something here? As part of my job, I’ve written press releases about the dangers of lead poisoning, written web articles, created flyers – all trying to educate the public about the dangers of lead in toys and lead in paint. And then I’d go home every day and drink a glass of lead-laced coke or sweet tea. I did it while I was pregnant. I’d make lemonade and let it sit in my refrigerator in a crystal pitcher for weeks, soaking up all that metal. I’ve even let Camille drink out of the glasses a time or two. But not again, that’s for sure.
I googled it when I got home, of course, and quickly found a warning not to use leaded crystal as everyday drinkware. Why didn’t I know this?
The one comfort I have is that Camille was screened for lead poisoning 4 months ago because we live in an older home. The test didn’t reveal any concerns, and I don’t think she’s had enough contact with the glasses yet to do any real damage. And I guess what scares me (and makes me feel fortunate at the same time), is that I almost didn’t catch this. If I hadn’t shown up at that presentation at that exact time and listened to that precise story, it’s likely I would never have known to check the crystal. Our whole family would have continued drinking out of the glasses every day, doing potential damage to us all, but especially to Camille.