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> Toxic Tableware: Danger stalks you at home, Long but serious news (News)

post Nov 1 2009, 07:44 PM, updated 13y ago

Junior Member
363 posts

Joined: Dec 2006

New Sunday Times
Toxic Tableware: Danger stalks you at home


By Sonia Ramachandran and Chandra Devi Renganayar

KUALA LUMPUR: How safe are the plates and mugs you use daily?

If they are ceramic, a study by the Malaysian Association of Standards Users shows they might not be as safe as you think.

In the study of 20 samples of ceramic tableware bought at random in the Klang Valley, 20 per cent were found to have leachable lead exceeding allowed standards by an average 1,700 per cent.

One sample, flat rice plates, exceeded limits by 7,500 per cent.

The standards used in the study were developed by the Department of Standards Malaysia for ceramic tableware specifications under MS1817:2009.

Standards Users chief executive officer Ratna Devi Nadarajan said the study was initiated in February to determine lead levels in ceramic tableware.
Standards Users chief executive officer Ratna Devi Nadarajan says the leachable lead in the samples is in excess of allowed standards by 1,700 per cent.
Standards Users chief executive officer Ratna Devi Nadarajan says the leachable lead in the samples is in excess of allowed standards by 1,700 per cent.

Standards Users is a specialised non-governmental organisation representing consumer interests in terms of the safety of consumer products and services as well as in promoting social responsibility for organisations. It also seeks to ensure consumer interests are taken into account during the development of standards.

Ratna, who described the results as "very alarming", said the samples were bought from hypermarkets in Petaling Jaya.

"This is what we eat and drink from and the study shows how much lead can leach out when you use these products. This can cause lead poisoning," she said.

The tableware used in the study included cups, mugs, saucers, plates and bowls.

Lead poisoning has been found to damage the nervous system, cause cancer and affect brain development in children.

Lead, said Ratna, was used in decorated ceramic tableware to enhance the colour of the decorations and provide a better finish.

However, she warned, there was high lead content in most heavily decorated mugs and plates which could leach out if the product was shoddily made.

Leaching is where the lead or other heavy metals, such as cadmium, are released from the packaging or storage material into the food it contains.

The lead is sealed when the glazes are properly formulated and fired at a high temperature.

"If they are not properly prepared and fired, lead may leach into the food stored in or on the ceramic tableware," she said.
In the study of 20 samples of ceramic tableware bought at random in the Klang Valley, 20 per cent were found to have leachable lead exceeding allowed standards by an average 1,700 per cent. One sample, flat rice plates, exceeded limits by 7,500 per cent.
In the study of 20 samples of ceramic tableware bought at random in the Klang Valley, 20 per cent were found to have leachable lead exceeding allowed standards by an average 1,700 per cent. One sample, flat rice plates, exceeded limits by 7,500 per cent.

Ratna was proved right when Universiti Sains Malaysia did a study on leaching of ceramic tableware in 1995 which showed that lead could leach out from ceramic tableware into the food contained within or on it.

This study, she said, emphasised that ceramic tableware was one of the sources of lead poisoning.

It found that 54.7 per cent of the items tested exceeded the United States' Food and Drug Administration's maximum permitted lead released from earthenware.

For plates alone, 83.7 per cent exceeded the safety limit and released the highest levels of lead.

Lead was also found in foods such as thin soya sauce, tomato sauce and tamarind juice stored in samples of ceramic sauce plates for 24 hours at room temperature.

"The rate of leaching depends on the nature of food or beverage the ceramic tableware holds. White ceramic tableware generally contained very minimal lead or cadmium," said Ratna.

She advised consumers to buy only ceramic ware that bear labels like "lead-safe" or "lead-free".

Among the samples tested by Standards Users were items by Claytan Corporation Sdn Bhd, whose products all came with a label that said "lead-safe".

All its items were found to have leachable lead within the permitted limits.

However, items by ceramic tableware distributor Sama-ria Cutlery Sdn Bhd had leachable lead well above recommended levels.

Some of the other items tested by Standards Users were labelled "Made in China" with no indication who manufactured or distributed them.

Who regulates this?

No one, said Ratna and Department of Standards Malay-sia director-general Fadilah Baharin.

There is only the MS1817:2009 standard, compliance with which is purely voluntary.

Lead and other heavy metals in ceramic tableware is regulated in many countries, including the US, the European Union, Australia, Japan and South Korea.

"When we developed this standard, we were hoping it would be taken up by the industry and regulators," said Fadilah.

"We trusted them. However, they only adhered to the standards when they want to export their products.

"It is currently an uncontrolled market so they have ample opportunities and they come in and sell unsafe products at our peril.

"I'm glad the consumer associations are passionate about this."

Fadilah said these issues needed to be addressed for the sake of consumers. "I, too, am a consumer and do not want to be subject to non-safe products."

Ratna and Fadilah want the standards to be made mandatory for all manufacturers and suppliers under the Regulations in the Food Act 1983.

"The regulations are under the Food Act so it is easy and fast for the health minister to amend the regulations to include the standards we have developed.

"It should be under the regulations in the Food Act because anything that is consumed should be under safety and health. In this case, it may cause lead poisoning.

"If you buy a plate and it breaks and cuts your hand when you pour something hot into it, that comes under the Consumer Protection Act.

"This is also covered under our standards. So take the appropriate parts of our standards and place them under the separate acts accordingly," said Fadilah.

She said there was, at present, no way for consumers to verify if a product was safe unless consumer organisations took the trouble to verify it.

"The verification process is expensive for the consumer organisations, so how much can they cover? It is an unregulated area, so we do need someone to verify that the items we use are safe.

"The culture in this country is to only act when there is a fatality. Why not act now? It is time to change our mentality."


Claytan Corporation Sdn Bhd - General Manager Joseph Tan
(This company's products bear the 'lead-free' label and were found to have leachable lead within permissible levels)

"OUR products are exported to the United States and Europe, so we comply with the California Proposition 65 which is of a higher standard than the US Food and Drug Administration standard. (Proposition 65 is formally titled 'The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986' and is a California law that has been in effect since 1986 to promote clean drinking water and keep toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects out of consumer products.)

"Only those who comply with Proposition 65 are considered lead-safe," said Tan.

"Our products bear the label 'lead-safe' as we want to increase the public's awareness about lead poisoning. In the United States, lead poisoning is called the 'silent killer' but Malaysians are not aware of this."

He said the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers had been asking the government to make it compulsory for tableware to be lead-safe for the last seven years.

"The MS1817:2009 standards developed by the Department of Standards must be made mandatory for local and imported tableware. As this is a health issue, the Health Ministry must be the regulator for this compliance."

Tan said the Customs Department had said it would put the MS1817:2009 for tableware under the prohibition list by year-end.

"The Health Ministry has also assured us they would start a task force to implement this by the first half of next year.

"There are many things in the market that are not lead-safe. We tested one sample of a Chinese-made soup spoon and found the lead content was 370 times of that allowed by Proposition 65.

"There is currently no standard for ceramic tableware that has been enforced. The government should enforce it soon and educate the public on the dangers of lead poisoning," said Tan.

Samaria Cutlery Sdn Bhd - Director Feli Hoo
(Samaria's products were tested and found to have high levels of leachable lead)

"DISTRIBUTION of the tableware that was found to have lead content had been discontinued.

"That particular tableware was not ours. It was from one of the biggest suppliers of ceramic ware in Penang. We were among the many distributors of that product. Since the manufacturer could not provide details about the product, we stopped distributing.

"We are careful about the type of tableware we bring into the country. We are the distributor for various types of tableware -- ceramic, stoneware and melamine ware -- from China, Thailand and Italy.

"We are particular about lead content in the tableware. This is one of our criterion when selecting manufacturers. Hence we only deal with established manufacturers who follow good manufacturing practices. The products from Thailand, for instance, are certified by the National Metal and Material Technology Centre

"These manufacturers also sell their products to countries like United States and the United Kingdom where there are strict controls. That is why we deal with these manufacturers."

Hoo said the company's hand-painted mugs from Thailand were sold all over the country whereas its artistic plates and stoneware tea sets from China are only sold at its outlet in Kota Kemuning, Shah Alam.

"We have decided to label our products 'lead-safe' to assure consumers that the products we distribute are free from lead poisoning," said Hoo, who added that she was not aware of the Malaysian standards for ceramic tableware.

Related -
Food Act covers all food containers

Children in high-risk group

post Nov 1 2009, 07:45 PM

Junior Member
455 posts

Joined: Dec 2008

i use plastic
post Nov 1 2009, 07:46 PM

Junior Member
363 posts

Joined: Dec 2006

How about your coffee mug? whistling.gif

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