Effect of microwave heating on leaching of lead from old ceramic dinnerware

Sci Total Environ. 1996 Apr 5;182(1-3):187-91. doi: 10.1016/0048-9697(95)05053-1.


When samples of pre-1950s U.S.-made ceramic dinnerware, purchased in antique shops and flea markets, were filled with 4% acetic acid or 0.5% citric acid and heated in a microwave oven for 2-5 min, lead was leached in amounts of up to 5 mg per dish. Concentrations of lead in the leachates were not significantly correlated with, and could not be predicted from, concentrations in leachates measured during 24-h room temperature acid leaching tests. Unsafe lead concentrations (>3 microg/ ml) were found in microwave leachates of dishes with uranium-containing glazes, with copper-containing glazes, and with floral over-the-glaze decals. This evidence suggests that use of such dishes to microwave common foods could result in the ingestion of dangerously large amounts of lead.

MeSH terms

  • Acetic Acid
  • Ceramics / chemistry*
  • Citric Acid
  • Cooking and Eating Utensils*
  • Food Contamination
  • Lead / analysis*
  • Microwaves*


  • Citric Acid
  • Lead
  • Acetic Acid