Traditional pottery and other ceramics are created using a porous form of clay. In order to hold food or liquid the pottery must be glazed before being put into a kiln to seal the pores. Some of these glazes may contain lead. Lead can then contaminate food if cooked or served in the pottery. Since awareness on the serious health risks associated with lead many potters have switched to non-lead glazes, but if the kiln has lead residue from past usage it may still fuse into the pottery and contaminate it. The FDA warns that the following types of ceramics or pottery should be handled with caution:
- Handmade with a crude appearance or irregular shape
- Damaged or excessively worn
- Purchased from flea markets or street vendors or if you are unable to determine whether the pottery is from a reliable manufacturer
- Brightly decorated in orange, red, or yellow color, as lead is often used with these pigments to increase their intensity.
If you do have a piece of pottery that may be questionable, use a lead-test swab kit to be sure it is safe for cooking, serving, or storing food or drinks.