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Spot the Contaminated Antiques

Antique collection sampled by pXRF

Looking at this image, can you spot the items with hazardous contaminant levels? We couldn’t, so we put our pXRF to work and found out.

We used a Bruker S1 Titan on ‘Restricted Materials’ calibration to test for a number of potentially harmful contaminants.

The results shocked us and the owner alike. 90% of these items contained high and unsafe levels of lead. Although this is not ideal, there was one more ominous than the rest.

Spectra of glass vase lead and cadmium

Our in-house scientist reviewed the spectra (shown left) to identify harmful elements. In this case, we have extremely high levels of both lead and cadmium. The purple markers indicate spikes of Pb (Lead) and the blue, Cd (Cadmium).

What are the effects of lead? Lead is a carcinogen and can cause many health issues. From brain damage, learning difficulties to nervous and renal system issues.

What are the effects of cadmium? Cadmium is also a human carcinogen which can affect multiple organ systems and has the potential to cause cancer in high doses.

The ‘safe’ amount of lead is 0.1%. Our item has 12.6%. Cadmium is much lower at 0.01% being safe. This antique contains 0.9%

Antique glass vase tests positive for lead and cadmium

So which antique failed our examination?

These beautiful, vintage glass vases. Received as a birthday gift from her son the early 80’s. Who would have known such a lovely gift could be so dangerous. The vases have since been moved to a glass cabinet where any harmful toxins can be contained.

In conclusion, if kept for display purposes only and handled carefully, these vases can remain on their shelf and live a happy life. We recommend putting them in a glass cabinet where possible and thoroughly washing your hands after handling.

As for the other antiques presenting high lead readings, it is best to keep them out of reach of children, refrain from handling and do not use for food.

Happy Collecting!

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