A growing awareness of harmful chemicals in our food system has prompted consumers to buy more organic products. According to the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) 2022 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce, 70% of nonorganic produce in the United States contains potentially toxic pesticide residue.
Often, we believe those damaging toxins begin and end at the grocery store. However, you may not realize that your dinnerware could be just as harmful to your health and the environment.
Fresh, organic food is an excellent start to healthier, eco-friendly living, but you’ll do yourself a bigger favor by switching to nontoxic dinnerware. Here’s how it can benefit your health and the environment.
A Leading Case For Nontoxic Dinnerware
Take a look at your kitchen cabinets. Most likely, your dinnerware is made from ceramic, such as porcelain, china, stoneware or earthenware. Although these materials are acceptable for eating off of, the glaze that makes your plates smooth and shiny may not be the safest.
Before 1971, dinnerware from overseas usually contained high traces of lead, leading to poisoning when food was served. Even today, vintage china with chips and cracks may contaminate food and beverages.
Do you use your grandmother’s dishes for holiday dinners and special occasions? In 2021, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene discovered 15 lead poisoning cases in adults and kids from older ceramic dishes. Considering 5 micrograms per deciliter is the maximum threshold of blood lead exposure, levels as high as 53 mg were of significant concern.
Lead poisoning carries severe long-term health implications, such as the following:
- In children, lead exposure damages the central nervous system, causing developmental, learning, speech, hearing and behavioral issues.
- Blood lead levels are associated with different cancers, such as Hodgkin’s lymphoma, as well as brain, lung, rectal, oesophageal and meningioma cancers.
- There’s a potential risk for female breast cancer associated with lead exposure in U.S. women.
- There’s an increased risk for cardiovascular disease mortality in people with lead exposure below 5 mg.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began regulating lead in dinnerware in 1971. However, trace amounts are still allowed in glazed ceramic pottery, silverware and tableware — and since lead is bio-accumulative, it can build up in your body and harm you over time.
Nontoxic Dinnerware For Optimal Health
Clearly, nontoxic dinnerware reduces your exposure to harmful lead exposure. However, some dishes may include other elements you’ll also want to avoid.
For example, plastic dinnerware and tableware may contain bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates — hormone disruptors that interfere with the endocrine system, reproductive health and thyroid function. Additionally, melamine dinnerware — often manufactured with formaldehyde — is unsafe if heated in the microwave or carrying acidic foods.
How do you choose nontoxic dinnerware? Most are ceramic, which is perfectly fine to continue using, as long as there isn’t any damage that could release toxins.
Bone china and stoneware are highly durable and not especially prone to chipping, but your safest option is glass dinnerware — soda-lime glass, borosilicate glass and glass-ceramic. Some glass dinnerware indeed contains lead particles, mainly recycled or colored glass, but lead leaching is minimal.
Another option is Ikea’s feldspar porcelain dinnerware, which has been lead-free since 2010. The company has also banned BPA and formaldehyde from food contact products.
Environmental Benefits Of Nontoxic Dinnerware
How often have you bought plastic dinnerware for parties because they’re easier to toss out? You should know that the harmful effects of BPA, phthalates and melamine on human health are just as damaging to the environment.
Approximately 14 million tons of plastic end up in our oceans every year, making safe, reusable, nontoxic dinnerware an eco-friendly alternative to toxic single-use plates, cups and utensils.
The next time you host a party, consider renting your dinnerware for a stress-free event. Choosing nontoxic glasses and plates will keep you and your guests safe, while the rental company will gladly take those dirty dishes off your hands and wash them for you afterward.
You might want to stop using plastic straws, as well. They contain polypropylene, affecting estrogen levels if exposed to acidic beverages or heat. Opting for stainless steel reusable straws instead will ensure years of use, while bamboo versions are biodegradable and chemical-free.
You’re not alone if you’re worried about your disposable dinnerware’s environmental impact. Consumer interest in greener disposable dish production has led to manufacturing via agricultural byproducts, such as bagasse cellulose, sugarcane and wheat straw cellulose.
Nontoxic Dinnerware Benefits Everyone
Whether you’re feeding your family or hosting your friends for dinner, you can rest assured nontoxic dinnerware is safe for everyone. Organic food is simply not enough if you’re trying to reduce toxin exposure. These dishes are your best option for optimal human and environmental well-being.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.