Dear Dr. Dave and Dr. Dee,
When having a dinner party, is it best to display wine and liquor in nice crystal decanters?
Dear Dinner Details,
It is nice, but not necessary to pour alcohol in a decanter for presentation. However, if you do, then use a decanter made of regular glass instead of crystal in order to avoid lead poisoning.
A 1992 study by Appel, et. al. found that the concentration of lead leached into three different liquids (white port, 4% acetic acid, and a synthetic alcoholic beverage) when stored in lead crystal decanters increased the longer they were stored over a 10-day period, but a rapid increase was found within the first 24 hours of storage. The researchers concluded, "consumption of alcoholic beverages stored in a lead crystal decanters is judged to pose a hazard" (Appel, et. al., 1992).
To be safe, no liquids should be stored in lead crystal containers. Avoid storing alcohol in crystal decanters, as well as juice, water, or carbonated beverages in crystal pitchers or salad dressing in crystal bottles.
Unfortunately, lead can be found nearly everywhere, i.e. soil, plumbing, old paint, some toys, furniture, hobbies, tableware. Because children are developing, low levels of lead in children can cause reduced IQ, behavioral problems, kidney damage, or slowed body growth. Lead accumulates in the body over time and can cause serious health problems in both children and adults, so limiting exposure is important.