Making A Difference: Breaking Mexico’s 500-Year-Old Toxic Tradition

Renowned Poet Homero Aridjis Makes Heartfelt Plea For A Lead-Free Mexico 


Did you know that millions of men, women and children in Mexico have elevated blood lead levels?  Many are “poisoned” at each meal by food cooked in or served on traditional pottery made by local artisans using toxic lead glazes.

Did you know that a lead-free glaze is widely available, which can produce the same famous shine in Mexican pottery, at a lower cost?

Unfortunately, many in Mexico are not aware of this either.

Now, renowned poet, novelist and environmental activist Homero Aridjis has made a heartfelt plea for a lead-free Mexico in a video statement supporting Barro Aprobado–an ambitious campaign launched by Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute and partners–aimed at breaking this toxic tradition that has gripped Mexico for over 500 years. 

In the video, Aridjis spoke about the daughter of the U.S. ambassador to Mexico in the early 1990s, who was found to have high lead levels in her blood.  The incident launched an outcry on both sides of the border against the use of toxic lead glazes in Mexican pottery.  

But while the flow of lead-glazed pottery into the U.S. has dramatically slowed because of an import ban, toxic wares continue to be produced and used by many families in Mexico even though there are laws preventing the use of lead glazes.

First Lead-Free restaurant

Recently, Pure Earth/Blacksmith was in Morelos state to launch the Barro Aprobado campaign and introduce the first restaurant in Cuernavaca’s historic downtown to go lead-free under the program.

Pure Earth/Blacksmith will slowly expand the Barro Aprobado program from state-to-state to begin the long and difficult process of changing a long-held tradition.  The project will raise awareness about the dangers of leaded pottery, and encourage the production and use of lead-free pottery in homes and restaurants across the country.  

Currently, there are only about 100 workshops producing lead-free pottery, out of an estimated 10,000 to 50,000 workshops using toxic lead glazes.

See fact sheet and infographic. Visit the Spanish language website.

Great Forest is a proud supporter of Pure Earth/Blacksmith Institute, a nonprofit that works to clean up some of the world’s worst polluted communities, where children are poisoned everyday. Each month we feature a story about Making A Difference.

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