Lead crystal is a type of glass that has a high proportion of lead within crystallized quartz. Concerns about the safety of using lead crystal decanters stem from the lead added to the glass and the possibility that it will leach into the beverage inside it.
Decanters made of lead crystal are identified by the clarity and heaviness of the glass. Lead is added to glass to achieve these qualities and add sparkle to the decanter. Items made of lead crystal are often cut, either by hand or mechanically, and the facets add to the light refraction that is already heightened by the added lead. Decanters can be different shapes and sizes, and most have glass stoppers.
Merriam-Webster Online defines a decanter as "a vessel used to decant or to store decanted liquids." To decant a liquid, the liquid is drawn off without disturbing the sediment. Decanters are commonly used for decorative purposes to store and serve wine, as well as to decant.
Lead poisoning is a serious concern for users of lead crystal. According to The Nibble, researchers studying the lead content of liquids stored in lead crystal found that port wine stored for two days had 89 micrograms of lead in it, and after four months it had 2,000 to 5,000 micrograms. The EPA standard for lead content in drinking water is 50 micrograms. Any liquid can leach lead from lead crystal.
Even though lead can leach into liquid over time, it is not necessary to stop using a lead crystal decanter. Wine, port or other alcohol should not be stored in lead crystal decanters, but they can be used for entertaining. Simply decant the liquid into the decanter for dinner and then decant it back into its original bottle to store it. The amount of time that the alcohol is in the decanter will not be sufficient to leach significant amounts of lead.
Because of concerns about lead poisoning, lead crystal manufacturers have attempted to create a type of glass that is lead free but still has the softness and clarity of leaded crystal. European researchers discovered that adding titanium, barium, magnesium, zinc or other metals to glass does not pose a safety risk. The resulting glass is clear and brilliant, with the same quality as lead crystal. The most common metals used in lead-free crystal are titanium and magnesium.
- Photo Credit crystal image by sumos from Fotolia.com
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