LEAD Action News

LEAD Action News vol 4 no 4 Spring 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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Lead in Baths

Reprinted off the internet from June 1995 issue of the "Refinisher's News"

SAFETY ALERT - BATH REFINISHERS!
New Source of Lead Poisoning Identified!

Each day, children bathe in it, play in it and are washed carefully in it. Yet, according to a special report on the April 19, 1995 edition of Good Morning America, porcelain bathtubs are one of America's most unexpected sources of lead exposure for children. Lead poisoning is currently considered the number one environmental health danger for children by the Centers for Disease Control.

The nationally televised report cited a study of over 600 tubs conducted by Unique Refinishers of Atlanta, GA. The study found that approximately 64 percent of the tubs tested had leachable lead on the surface. The tested tubs were of varying age and came from a wide range of domestic and import companies.

Good Morning America's report focused on the Thomas family from a small town in Massachusetts. In spite of their efforts to identify and eliminate lead exposure in their home, their two children continued to have very high blood lead levels, requiring continuing medical treatments. The older child had a blood lead level of 47 micrograms per decilitre, while the second child (age 7 months) showed a level greater than 20 micrograms per decilitre.

Aside from negligible lead in the household dust, the only source of lead that could be identified in the children's environment at the time was the lead-based paint in their home. Even though it was not peeling, they spent over $15,000 to have it professionally removed. Away from home during the abatement process (2 months), the children's blood lead levels decreased to nearly normal levels (1 to 9 micrograms per decilitre). Within a week after moving back into the now lead-free and lead safe home, both children again showed significant elevated blood lead levels.

The family then purchased a home lead test kit called LeadCheck Swabs to test their ceramic ware. When her dishes tested negative for lead, Mrs. Thomas then used a LeadCheck Swab on the bathtub the only remaining item in the house not yet tested for lead. The swab immediately turned pink, indicating the tub was leaching dangerous levels of lead. Every time the children bathed in the tub and played with their toys, they ingested lead simply by touching the tub and putting their wet fingers and toys in their mouths. The children ceased using the tub for their baths and within a few months their blood lead levels returned to nearly 10 micrograms per decilitre.

When she first tested the bathtub, Patricia Thomas immediately called the LeadCheck Information Hotline to ask questions. The company was surprised by this potential lead source, and sent its top R&D specialist to investigate. Numerous follow-up tests confirmed the initial finding - the bathtub was the problem.

"When Mrs. Thomas called our information Hotline, we couldn't believe that bathtubs could leach lead," says Dr. Marcia Stone, president of HybriVet Systems, Inc. and inventor of LeadCheck Swabs. Unfortunately, it's true, and thousands of children are at risk."

Continued testing of this and other bathtubs has confirmed the presence of leachable lead in porcelain bathroom fixtures. A baby wipe rubbed on the bottom of a tub picked up over 1000 micrograms of lead. Hands rubbed along the side of a LeadCheck positive tub were shown to pick up significant amounts of lead. Bath water allowed to sit in LeadCheck positive tubs leaches lead in amounts exceeding 50 parts per billion. Washcloths soaked in bath water and rubbed on the bottom of the tub concentrated significant amounts of lead.

Unique Refinishers has now surveyed more than 750 bathtubs and found that, overall, 62% of all porcelain tubs tested positive with LeadCheck Swabs. Specifically, 77% of the cast iron tubs and 25% of the steel tubs tested positive. This source of lead most likely represents a significant exposure to only very young children with their high level of hand to mouth activity and propensity to "drink" the water during bath time.

While bathtubs are a newly identified source of lead, other sources include deteriorating lead paint, water, plumbing, dust and ceramics, to name a few. According to Stone, the best solution is for the public to empower itself with information on the problem.

What is the solution to the lead problem? Unique Refinishers has confirmed that refinishing LeadCheck positive tubs eliminates the leaching of lead by encapsulating the tub. The implications for the Refinisher are obvious.

After spending over $15,000 on lead abatement, Patricia Thomas found that she could have prevented the problem by simply having the tub refinished for only a few hundred dollars. You need to empower your customers by giving them the benefit of the Thomas' experience. Carry a supply of LeadCheck Swabs and test every porcelain tub and sink you encounter. If there is a possibility of lead exposure, you can demonstrate it on the spot.

And what about you? Do you need to protect yourself from lead exposure during the refinishing process? If you are following the proper safety procedures you normally use (and we would be disappointed to find that you aren't) to protect yourself from the other hazards of refinishing, you are protected. You should avoid breathing sanding dust or, better yet, wet sand to prevent dust in the first place. You should always wear coveralls and latex or rubber gloves during surface preparation and spraying.

[Dulux are the importers of LeadCheck kits in Australia - ph Doug Bell - 03 9263 9228.
The US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Department of Housing and Urban Development, and EPA have found these test kits unreliable. Use lab testing.]

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Last Updated 27 November 2012
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