QUESTION: Is a lead-containing Colonial Trunk Bench handcrafted in Colombia safe for a young couple to buy? - 10 Aug 2007 New Jersey, USA
I am getting married this year and hope to get pregnant as soon as possible after. Would it be harmful for me to buy this Colonial Trunk Bench? The site says there is lead in the bench. However, from what I have read you get lead by breathing it in or ingesting it. I didn't think either would happen from a bench.
Can I have your opinion?
The Story behind the Product
Around the world there are artisans who know how to make exquisite centerpiece items. Yet they have trouble accessing the US market because they are small-lot producers in an age of mass distribution. Often there is no way to get goods from their remote villages to here, and when there is, too many layers of mark-up make them unaffordable. The tragedy is that if we bought their goods, the artisans could prosper without abandoning their native crafts and culture, and without depending on charity. Overstock's main business is bringing small lots to consumers at affordable prices. Five years ago we realized that this capacity is exactly what artisans need. Thus was born Worldstock. We locate magnificent items made by craftswomen and craftsmen around the world. We emphasize sustainability: choosing items that are environmentally sound, and that don't burn up the natural or human resources of their producers. Our goal in Worldstock is not to make money, but to create tens of thousands (and someday millions) of jobs in the poorest regions of the world, while bringing customers unique products of which they can be proud - hand-crafted clothing, jewelry, ceramics, furniture, and much more.
ANSWER: 14 Aug 2007
you have asked an interesting question. Thanks for your email. The major success of California's Proposition 65 legislation is that it has made manufacturers think twice about including lead in products. The side-effect is that the legislation has forced vendors to put a warning on leaded products which would otherwise (and if only being sold outside of California, invariably do) have no warning on them.
The most useful response you could have to this warning is to ask Worldstock or the artisan in question, Roxanna Congrains in Colombia, WHY there is lead in the product? Is the varnish leaded and if so, why couldn't they use a non-leaded varnish so that Worldstock could justify it's claim of: "We emphasize sustainability: choosing items that are environmentally sound, and that don't burn up the natural or human resources of their producers."
If the Amarilla wood in the trunk bench is re-use timber that was previously painted with lead paint and the lead has remained in the wood grain even after the paint was removed, then you'd be doing the artisan and her children a real favour by asking the QUESTION: are they using a lead-safe method to remove the paint? Are they contaminating their environment / their home by the methods they are using? Lead-safe paint removal methods are typically more expensive but they do exist.
If the lead is naturally found in the Amarilla wood then the question is: is the artisan controlling the spread of this leaded sawdust when working on the pieces?
If the lead is in any metal parts eg hinges, then similarly: is the artisan protected from it or is she breathing in the fumes when forming the metal? What is the blood lead level of the artisan and her children? They are at far greater risk of lead exposure than anyone who might simply use the bench.
To answer your question, the lead exposure risk is entirely dependent on what part of the bench contains lead, at what concentration, and how that part is treated during use. The lead exposure risks I could foresee for a user of the bench are ingestion by a child chewing on the leaded part or picking up dust on their fingers from say a lead-alloy hinge, or inhalation if someone were to dry-sand the leaded part or if the bench was burned.
I hope you will take this opportunity to use the full power of the Californian legislation and actually attempt to have the lead removed safely from the product (or at least from future products) thus potentially saving the families of 20 artisans in Colombia from preventable lead exposure.
All the best with your wedding and family plans. It's extremely useful to know what your blood lead level is, and your partner's, before attempting conception. Knowing your blood lead levels will allow you to work to reduce your blood lead levels to as low as is achievable, which is especially helpful for making healthy sperm, and is a fantastic investment in the future health of your children. So ask your doctor for the blood lead tests.
Please let me know how you go.
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