It hurts me to say this but there have been cases of different kinds of health problems attributed to antiques, vintage pieces and older collectibles. Says the girl (me) who jumps head first into every mangled box she finds at an estate sale.
Other than quickly wiping my hands I have never second guessed what I might be getting myself into.
Here are a few tips on what to look out for. These are not all of the potential toxic treasures out there but a few of the most hazardous ones to your health.
Every heard the expression “drop dead gorgeous” I once heard it came from a time when Victorian women would dance the night away and the arsenical dust from their gowns plagued ballrooms. Harsh levels of arsenic was found in vintage green clothing and most commonly gowns (dresses) in the 19th century. Avoid green tarlatan dresses (fabric) and the Scheele’s Green agent I believe to have been used in dye. Arsenical pigments have also been detected in stockings in the red colour family. Some candles, curtains, and wallpapers from the period were also known to contain harmful levels of arsenic.
Mercury was once used to weight old lamp bases and antique clock pendulums as well as act as the reflective surface behind glass mirrors in the mirror backing. Make sure you are additionally cautious when buying dated barometers and thermometers. You should check for damage and ensure seals on these items are mercury leak proof.
Radium or Tritium can be found in old clocks and watches circa the early 1900’s. Beware of those that glow in the dark. It seems like shiny things with an intriguing glow weren’t so great back then. Back in the day it was also said that Uranium was added to Vaseline glass to give it a yellow-ish green glow.
Unfortunately toxic amounts of lead have been found in thrift and consignment store collectibles such as dishware, jewelry and antique toys. Look out for furniture where lead-based paint may have been used too.
Colourful ceramics made in the 1960’s attract the eye because of their radiant glazes but the glaze may have Radionuclides in it. Pottery and Tiles also fit this mould.
I am not a health expert so cannot suggest all the side effects or health issues that may derive from contact with these items relayed above I am merely just sharing years of information I have come across.
At the end of the day it is always a rush to find that “piece to die for” but not literally speaking.