Emile Henry – The Dish Police

Detox Witch: How was your weekend?

Sister: Awesome, went to Yosemite, yours?

Detox Witch: I shopped for non toxic dishware. And yes, it was awesome too.

Sister: Um, why?

Lead free dishware is a pretty niche aspect of the non toxic lifestyle, not many folks question the safety of what they’re eating off of. Maybe cause the government should be taking care of us? Right?IMG_4109

Sadly, there is little regulation of dishware by the FDA as they cannot test everything, and 15% of dishware that they do test is found to have high levels of lead and cadmium. Recalls are made, but many of these high lead content dishes still make into homes. We can rely on some testing by the manufacturer but then the consumer must be willing to trust the manufacturer’s claims.

Consumers are left with the burden of research as there are few FDA or California Prop 65 requirements for manufacturers to test dishware and provide results before it goes on the market. The only requirement is that the dishware not exceed certain levels of lead and cadmium. When there is no actual “policing” how do you get this information?

This is when I put down the broom and pick up the Dish Police badge!

First I bought a home lead testing kit from 3M at a hardware store and tested two dishes from my Emile Henry set. It’s important I test these as I have two Emile Henry place settings at this point from my wedding registry and want to get more.



Negative! (Red swab indicates lead, the testing fluid is this yellow color)


Great! Right? Not so fast.

I had found a comment on a random message board where a poster had tested positive for lead in her Emile Henry dishware (yes, I am a tad neurotic). I wanted to take the testing further and searched for a more advanced testing option. I came across Lead Safe America, a nonprofit lead safety awareness group that will test your items for a small donation with an XRF device. This was the perfect opportunity to get a better gauge on my dishes, and to decide if I wanted to buy the rest that we had registered for.

I packed the bowl and plate, mailed it in and waited.

A few days later, I got a notice that the group’s founder Tamara Rubin had posted an article featuring my bowl, called A Tale of Two Bowls. It was a bit surreal to see a bowl from my humble kitchen featured in an article, but so cool to see it make for an interesting comparison! They tested mine (the yellow Emile Henry bowl on the right) and a red bowl from another designer that someone else had sent in. The result: Vastly different!

The red bowl came in with very high and unsafe lead levels at 40,000 ppm, where the Emile Henry products came in at relatively low amounts at less than 200 ppm.

Below are the detailed test results for the Emile Henry dishes*:

Bowl (Emile Henry Citron 21.21)
Unglazed base test 1: 42 ppm lead +/- 11 ppm (>60 seconds test))
Unglazed base test 1: 12 ppm cadmium +/- 5 ppm (>60 seconds test))
Unglazed base test 2: 33 ppm lead +/- 10 ppm (>55 seconds test)
Unglazed base test 2: 10 ppm cadmium +/- 5 ppm (>55 seconds test)
Inside (White): 180 ppm lead +/-20 ppm (>47 seconds test)
Outside (Yellow): 129 ppm lead +/- 20 ppm (>30 seconds test)
Outside (Yellow): 40 ppm cadmium +/- 10 ppm (>30 seconds test)

Plate (Emile Henry Citron 21.21)
front side (eating surface) 107 ppm lead +/- 18 ppm (>60 seconds test)
front side (eating surface) 37 ppm cadmium +/- 9 ppm (>60 seconds test)
back side: 106 ppm lead +/- 18 ppm (>30 seconds test)
back side: 43 ppm cadmium +/- 9 ppm (>30 seconds test)
Unglazed band on bottom of plate: 38 ppm lead +/- 10 ppm(>30 seconds test)
Unglazed band on bottom of plate: 11 ppm cadmium +/-5 ppm(>30 seconds test)

The bolded readings fall a bit higher than the recommended amounts for children (90 ppm for lead, 40 ppm for cadmium), but I am satisfied with these levels and will make the choice to eat off of these. Why? The next issue is leaching, which an XRF cannot detect. The glaze on these products is solid and difficult to scratch. I am convinced by these low readings and the manufacturer’s claims and history that I do not need to worry about lead leaching.

After my research online, it seems good lead-safe dish brands include: Ikea, Corelle, Emile Henry, Fiestaware (after 1992)

Conclusion: I believe these dishes to be safe based on 3M testing and the Lead Safe America testing. I will be purchasing the rest of this set! Thank you friends and family for the lovely wedding gifts!!

*The measurements are among the most accurate available by the top of the line scientific instrument and done by an operator trained and certified in using the instrument. Lead Safe America is not a certified lab and offers this service for informational purposes only.

I may use a certified lab for further testing but am going to choose not to for now. I will happily take these test results for my own personal decision making. Thank you Lead Safe America! 

3 Comments Add yours

  1. comedybass says:

    Time to wash the dishes… wash them of lead!


  2. vivaciousjd says:

    Thank you for sharing your findings. I love Emile Henry so this is good news. I stumbled upon your article after searching for lead free dishes. I found a news report from Indianapolis that you may find interesting if you have not already read it. In the article, they also mention Denby dishes (claims that there is “no lead or cadmium used during the manufacturing proccess of any Denby product.”), Hartstone Pottery (“all body, glaze and paint raw materials are lead and cadmium free.”) as well as Fiestaware (but they did not specify a date). I appreciate the fact that you listed the 1992 date for Fiestaware as this is the brand of dishes that I have. Here is the news article if you are interested.


    Best wishes,

    Liked by 1 person

    1. detoxwitch says:

      Good to know thanks, would like to check out Denby and Hartstone. Thanks for the tip!


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