QUESTION: Has lead exposure from living in a house with leadlight windows been researched? 22/12/10 New South Wales, Australia
We have recently moved into a house with old leadlight windows. I was wondering if you knew of any scientific studies that had determined whether having these types of windows increased your levels of exposure to lead. The only information that I have been able to locate seems to refer to the dangers present when actually making the windows (rather than the finished product),
ANSWER: Dec 22 2010
we only have anecdotal evidence (from a lead assessor) that leadlights can significantly increase the dust lead loading on the windowsill and other horizontal surfaces below the window. For this reason, we would recommend regular wet cleaning of such areas. The frequency of cleaning would need to be greater if the lead is in the sunshine because it is the oxidised lead that forms the dust that falls from the leadlights over time.
If you want to run your own experiment, we'd recommend having any young children blood lead tested by the doctor before they move in, and again in a couple of months, to see if the blood lead level is going up. Adults are usually too sensible and hygienic to be at risk of picking up this lead dust so you would not be a good surrogate for a child in this case.
Alternatively, you could do dust wipe testing before you move in and then compare the results to what the research says is a reasonable dust wipe lead load to expose a child to.
If there's only adults among the residents, then simply institute regular wet-cleaning around the leadlights whenever it looks dusty. Lead oxide dust is very fine and hard to see and easily picked up on the hands or paws or fur, so this approach is inadequate if you need to protect children or pets.
I trust this helps.
Let me know if you'd like to purchase one of our DIY-sampling lab lead analysis kits which are designed for this very purpose - total prevention of lead exposure by testing the environment for lead BEFORE children (or pets) are exposed.
The lead assessor who told us of this hazard recommended putting a clear sheet of glass in front of the leadlights if you need to protect children (or pets). He achieved lead dust clearance (dust lead loading results which are compliant with the US regulatory maximum limits) when this recommendation was carried out at a childcare centre in a 100 year old building.
[Updated answer following The LEAD Group's November 2012 recommendation that children and adults should have a blood lead level less than 1 µg/dL, in line with the publication of "Eliminating childhood lead toxicity in Australia: a call to lower the intervention level" by Professors Mark P Taylor, Chris Winder and Bruce P Lanphear, Med J Aust 2012; 197 (9): 493, November 5th 2012.
From: The LEAD Group Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2012 5:20 PM To: Duncan
Subject: Info Pack 34 - NSW - replacement of leadlighting / making it lead-safe
both the paint and the dust on the floor near your leadlight doors can be tested for lead at a lab (whereas the LeadCheck kits by 3M available at good hardware stores are only sensitive enough to test for lead in the paint - and they're only colour-change kits, so you end up not knowing HOW MUCH lead is in the paint, just a general idea of whether there's SOME lead in the paint).
The LEAD Group charity has set up a DIY-Sampling kit (You can phone to order a kit or fill in the form on our website, accessible from the above) where you collect the samples and post them to a lab for lead analysis - which gives you the exact amount of lead in dust wipes and/or paint (and/or soil or water or jewellery etc) PLUS an interpretation report to tell you what the results mean in terms of lead-safety for your child, as well as recommendations on what to do about the results, tailored to your situation.
If you test the dust you'll know for sure, but the general rule is that leadlight should never be accessible to young children. We recommend full leadlight door replacement if you can afford it.
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