LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 1  Summer 1996    ISSN 1324-6011
Incorporating Lead Aware Times ( ISSN 1440-4966) and Lead Advisory Service News ( ISSN 1440-0561)
The journal of The LEAD (Lead Education and Abatement Design) Group Inc.

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Consumer Products - Case Studies

by Robin Mosman, The LEAD Group

The ubiquitousness of lead is being demonstrated in the enquiries received by LEADLINE about a range of consumer products.

Leadlighting

With the rise in popularity of leadlighting as a decorative feature in housing, both old and new, inquiries about many aspects of leadlighting are being received. Some inquirers are concerned about deteriorating old leadlight, and some about deteriorating new leadlight - "I had a new kitchen done 3 years ago, with 3 leaded cupboard windows. Now the lead on one of them is powdering off. It comes off when its wiped, then it comes back again".

The doctor/leadlighter referred to under Subject 2 - Lead Hobbyists, considers it best not to have leadlight in kitchen cupboards. "Leadlight in doors weakens over time because of flexing. The linseed oil in the putty (which contains lead) dries out, and the putty becomes brittle. Powdering lead can contaminate cleaning cloths and uncovered food."

Heat guns

A number of inquirers have contacted LEADLINE with concerns about heat guns.

Case A was a paediatrician and mother who used a heat gun to remove paint from skirting boards for at least a month, often with her 20 month old baby on her lap - "being careful not to let her eat paint" - when blood lead tests on her 3 children showed they all had high levels. The 6 yr old was 24 g/dL, the 3 yr old 20 g/L the baby 37 g/L and the mother 15 g/L. The parents had only been alerted to the need for testing when they attended an information evening organised by The LEAD Group in conjunction with Ashfield Council. The children were tested the following day.

The paediatrician had known of the danger of lead paint, but had not realised the danger of the leaded fumes created by heat guns. "If the equipment had been labelled with warnings I wouldn’t have used it. Families have got to know; they have a right to be warned if there’s a chance they could be unknowingly poisoning their children."

Case B was a middle-aged woman who became extremely ill after stripping 7 coats of paint from woodwork in her old weatherboard cottage in Fremantle using a heat gun and no mask. "The doctor said the electrical messages to my heart have slowed down. My heart actually stopped 2 weeks ago."

She is also having kidney problems. She was going into hospital the following day for an angiogram, and asked that information prepared by Professor Brian Gulson on toxicological effects of lead on adults be faxed to her to discuss with her doctor. However, her doctor "just brushed it off - he got peeved with me." He did not refer her for a blood lead test. She now needs to have a pacemaker.

She and her husband own a paint shop and she contacted LEADLINE after seeing the Lead Alert booklet at the shop. She wasn’t aware of any warnings on the heat gun.

Case C was a nurse who was removing paint from a window with a heat gun. She stopped work and contacted LEADLINE (via NSW EPA) when she came to "flaky bright red paint as the bottom layer." The whole time she and her husband were working they felt nauseous and "2 days after we stopped we still felt tired and heavy." She was wearing a respirator.

She hired the heat gun and the respirator, and spoke at length of her difficulties in finding out about the appropriate respirator to wear. "I knew I would need a mask, but it was really hard to find out the information. Everyone said there was no-thing to worry about. People told me I was being stupid and neurotic - at Mitre 10, BBC, the hire shop. One man (from the hire shop) tried to ring CIG for me because there wasn’t enough information (on the mask) saying what it protects you from. He seems more informed now. The ignorance was incredible. The heat guns for sale had no warnings on them, to wear a mask or anything."

On finding that all the windows were undercoated with red lead, she decided to have them removed. "The demolition crowd were totally unaware about lead. They weren’t interested in taking any precautions for them or for us. They were caked in dust. None of them were willing to read anything. They were really moody." The windows were removed by the demolition firm - she didn’t know where they went.

Ceramics

The owner of a shop selling ceramics sent LEADLINE a sample for lead testing of some pottery imported from Mexico. The results showed a level of 33,000 ppm, which is 66,000 times the acceptable level for drinking mugs.

LEADLINE made a general inquiry to the NSW Department of Fair Trading, who are now investigating whether there could be other instances of this situation occurring, and whether it is possible to stop the sale of such products.

A ceramicist contacted LEADLINE in an effort to find out whether there can be lead released from lead frit used in glazes when copper carbonate is used as a colorant. He had heard that the copper increases the solubility of the lead. This question of lead in ceramic glazes comes up continually.

Second Hand Furniture and Antiques

Many callers had concerns about lead paint on old furniture they had stripped or wanted to strip. One inquirer, who had three small children and could have been pregnant, had started sanding an old cabinet "when the penny dropped" that the paint might be leaded, which it indeed was on testing. Another inquirer, with two young children, had an antique canister with compartments for storing sugar and flour. It was painted with flaking leaded paint.

A number of calls have been received by parents who have purchased old and antique cots to do up for their expected new babies. One inquirer had the paint tested through LEADLINE. It had a lead level of 3,280 ppm. The NHMRC level for lead in new paint is 1,000 ppm. LEADLINE informed the inquirer of a new encapsulant from the US, but he was not prepared to take the risk "knowing what kids are like with their teeth on cots." (See next article.) He said he would take it to the tip. LEADLINE pointed out that if he did, someone would probably scavenge it, and that perhaps it would be safer to find an alternative use for it, like storing the ironing.

For more information on leaded product recalls, go to
lead poisoning hazard consumer product recalls

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