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Pouring Lead: Better start the New Year lead-free

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Pouring Lead: Better start the New Year lead-free

With candle, spoon and water bowl

It doesn’t matter whether it’s pewter or wax: the figure oracle always works according to the same principle: the material is melted in a spoon over a candle flame and poured into a bowl of cold water. With the help of the frozen figures, the future is interpreted in the circle of family and friends. Interpretation aids are already included with many casting sets – on the back of the packaging or as an instruction leaflet.

Why lead casting with real lead is forbidden

Lead is a heavy metal that can be harmful to health even in low doses. When heated, toxic lead vapors are produced which enter the body through breathing. When touching the lead figures, the heavy metal is transferred to the hands and can thus enter the body via food, for example. Small children also sometimes put toy-like lead figures in their mouths, and significant amounts of lead can also enter the body. In addition, there is a risk of severe burns when pouring lead from possible splashing of the liquid metal.

Lead makes you stupid

Lead damages the central nervous system and thus brain function. Studies show that even small amounts in children can impair intelligence, attention and reaction skills and cause behavioral disorders. However, lead can also affect the hormone system. Children in the womb as well as infants and small children are particularly sensitive. According to the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR), no safe threshold value can be specified for the effect of lead on the central nervous system. The BfR is therefore of the opinion that the lead intake of children should be reduced as far as possible. For this reason, toys should not emit any lead at all.

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BfR: Questions and answers on lead in children’s toys

Hardly any casting sets with lead on the market

The sale of lead casting sets with pure lead or mixtures containing lead – such as leaded tin – has been banned since 2018. According to an EU regulation, the lead content in metal must be less than 0.05 percent. Only a few private dealers online still offer casting sets with real lead – these are the very last remaining stocks that should actually no longer be sold. Most of the offerings that go by the name of “lead casting” are now sets with pewter or wax.

Alternatives: wax, tin, coffee grounds – and app

It is best for the environment and health to avoid casting lead altogether. Tin is a good substitute, although the figures don’t turn out quite as well. On the other hand, tin is non-toxic and melts even faster than lead. However, only pure tin, also known as food grade tin, is truly lead-free. Pewter for pewter figures usually also contains lead.

Especially for children you can switch to candle wax. However, it is a bit more difficult to fish the wax figures out of the water unbroken. Some users complain that the wax mixture sometimes does not sink into the bowl but spreads out flat on the water surface.

wax figure. According to New Year’s Eve custom, it should give an indication of the future. © Stiftung Warentest / Nina Mascher

Figures made of bread or biscuit dough can be interpreted and then eaten. To do this, pour raw dough carefully into boiling oil, let it fry briefly and fish it out with a slotted spoon. Be careful with fat splashes! With this method, parents should do the watering for their children.

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On the other hand, alternative forms of oracles such as card reading or reading coffee grounds are completely harmless. And of course there have long been apps that can be used to cast lead virtually.

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