Q: A friend recently returned from Italy and brought us some lovely blue and white pottery dishes and mugs, but we feel uneasy about eating and drinking from them because we're afraid of lead poisoning. Is there a place we can get the dishes checked for safety? Also, where can we find pottery with country decorations that are guaranteed safe?
A: Dangerous levels of lead in pottery, ceramic and earthenware (especially foreign-made) can pose a health hazard if the glazes or finishes are improperly formulated, applied and fired.
To have pieces (including glassware) tested for safety and to receive a lead-testing service and fee sheet, write to Earl Rosenberg at Suburban Laboratories Inc., 4140 Litt Drive, Hillside, Ill. 60162-1183, enclosing an addressed, stamped business-size envelope. Or phone (708) 544-3260. Mr. Rosenberg says usually only one piece from a set of dinnerware would have to be tested.