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toxic/a real story

updated fri 27 aug 99


mel jacobson on tue 24 aug 99

in keeping with the line of `toxic` stories that many more
qualified than myself have been dealing with:

on our block in minneapolis....grand avenue from 26th street to 27th street...
all the kids, and that is 17 of them are dead. (all before 55, most in
their 40's)
i can list the names. all died of cancer or related illness.

sharlene and i lived a block away. all the kids from that side of
grand and 28th are still alive. all attend the west high reunions.

we know that minneapolis sprayed heavily for mosquitoes, and we chased
the sprayers.
the army sprayed cadmium in minneapolis in the late 50's. no one knows
why, for sure. but, it has been admitted.

we lived near the `western alloyed steel casting company`...and they
'pumped` crap from their stacks.

all the mothers on that part of grand avenue used to complain of little
spots of material on their laundry...we did not have it on our blocks.
air born...winds took the stuff a few blocks away before it fell.

i have no answers to this, but know it happened...talked to people
in the city department...they did not want to know. dropped
it like a `lead balloon`.

i did a small article for the minneapolis tribune in 1967...entitled, `lead
in dishes,
will it kill you?` some people from california had become ill from dishes from
mexico. after calling some friends it was discovered that the dishes had
not been fired with glaze...the glaze was `sears roebuck` lead based
house paint. the pots were made as decorative pieces, not meant to be
used...and they were used...for orange juice. hence, the sickness.
no one died, the story went away.

BIG QUESTION: does anyone on the list know for a fact...a fact, that
anyone in the world has ever died from using fired ceramic dishes? any kind of
ceramic dishes? and i do not want to hear about, someone one told me,
or, i think i there any evidence?....i have never heard of any.

i had a potter friend that died of lead poisoning. she was making low temp
stuff about 1965. used her coffee cup to mix glazes, then rinsed it out
and drank coffee from it. she was about 300 lbs. and did not like to
move around much. the doctors thought she had ms, but it turned out
that the cure they gave her for ms speeded up the lead poisoning, and helped
to kill her. lead was discovered when they did the autopsy, a great deal
of lead. she did not have ms.

we have friends that are on this list with ceramic related illness'. this
concerns me a great deal. i do not take any of this lightly. it is serious
business. but, we have to learn from it...not run away frightened...we have
to keep things clean, keep our hands out of stuff that will hurt us, but
we must continue to make pots, and good pots. pots that are safe for
our customers. that just makes good sense.

as i joked the other day...wrapping your head in saran wrap will kill you
faster than the clay. so don't let the cure kill you. use good sense.

bucky fuller told us years ago (his best book in my opinion, `the critical
path`) that america would go crazy for re/cycling...
and the government would be the only group that would not do it.
they still do not re/cycle copper...keeps the price high. (think of all the
bullet casings lying out there...never picked up.) a bill was snuck through
this spring in congress...they do not have to re/cycle paper. just dump
it in the ocean.

well, long enough, but i would like some anwers to my question about
we will see what shakes out.
from minnetonka, minnesota, u.s.a.

Thonas C. Curran on thu 26 aug 99

mel jacobson wrote:

> BIG QUESTION: does anyone on the list know for a fact...a fact, that
> anyone in the world has ever died from using fired ceramic dishes? any kind o
> ceramic dishes? and i do not want to hear about, someone one told me,
> or, i think i there any evidence?....i have never heard of any.
The stoneware industry in the US started growing about the time of the
Rev. War when people began to be aware of the danger of lead poisoning
from lead glazed earthenware. Potter's children were often given the
task of grinding the white lead for glazes, and they were often the ones
who got the lead poisoning due to their youth as well as exposure.
We stayed in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico for a week more than 25
years ago. My in-laws stayed there in a rented casa each winter (along
with the other gringos who lived like kings on social security and
pensions). There was a big US resident community there with many
artists, and talk with them naturally gravitated towards clay. It was
common knowledge in that group that the folk pottery being made there
was glazed with about 90% raw lead and 10% clay at very low
temperatures. All the residents seemed to use the indigenous pottery
for serving dishes, but they also steered away from highly acidic foods
in those containers. (Judging from the cobblestone streets, hilly
terrain and free flowing rum drinks at their noontime cocktail parties,
these people were probably more prone to broken ankles and
alcohol-caused accidents than they were to lead poisoning, but that's
neither here nor there.) I don't know if anyone actually did get lead
poisoning, but I sure as heck would not use any of that folk pottery for
stewed tomatos - or anything else for that matter. While this may not
be the factual information you are looking for, it IS a fact that the
American resident population in one town in Mexico in 1973 was aware of
potential dangers from leaching lead in low fire glazes. It is also a
fact that stoneware replaced redware as the ware of choice as soon as
more sophisticated firing technology and stoneware clays became
available to the potters of the late 18th and early 19th centuries. And
I betcha that it wasn't just the durability of the stoneware that
hastened the demise of the old redware pot... common knowledge about
lead poisoning must have had some basis in fact, not just old wives'
(And a bit of pottery history trivia... A lot of early stoneware was
first manufactured in the NYC area close to the South Amboy vicinity
claybeds in NJ. Other potteries grew up along the Hudson River (cheap
transportation of the clay, obviously) in places like Athens,
Poughkeepsie, Troy and Albany. Later on the Erie Canal was used to
transport the Jersey clay, and potteries were established along that
water route at Utica, etc. Up in my neck of the woods, there was a trio
of big pottery centers-- Albany area and Ft. Edward in NY plus
Bennington, Vt. [ In fact, there were itinerant potters and decorators
who would travel from one area to another as work presented itself, and
that's why you have the handsome slip trailed deer and other distinctive
design motifs on crocks and jugs in the mid 1800's which are marked
with stamps from all 3 areas despite the fact they were decorated by one
hand.] I had always wondered how Bennington got such a big name in the
antique stoneware world, although I knew the PR efforts of one John
Spargo helped put the name of Bennington on the pottery map years ago.
At any rate, I asked a curator at Bennington Museum how clay got up to
Bennington, and he said that they used to bring it from the Hudson via
oxcart. And now all you Clayarters across the seven seas share this
incredibly fascinating knowledge. Ain't Clayart grand? Carolyn aka