Crystal Decanters Can Be Hazardous

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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High-alcohol spirits are biologically and chemically stable and can be kept for years without spoiling. One traditional and decorative way of storing them has been the decanter made of glass crystal, which derives its weight and appearance from the element lead. Unfortunately, lead is powerfully toxic to the nervous system, and readily leaches from crystal into spirits and other acidic liquids. Old decanters that have been used many times have been preextracted and are safe to use; new ones should either be pretreated to remove lead from the inner surfaces, or only used for serving, not storing.