Aug 24, 2018
by editorial team and Sophia Ruan Gushée
Lead is a toxic metal commonly found in rocks and soil. It cannot be seen, smelt or tasted. (1) While phased out of some products in the 1970’s, lead is still found in many homes today. Including in glazes on tubs.
Studies pursued by the Vermont Housing and Conservation Board found lead glaze on 75% of tubs tested in homes built before 1978 (those enrolled in the lead hazard reduction program). Of those tubs, 40% tested positive for lead dust. In addition, water samples showed that hotter water, and water remaining in contact with tub glaze for longer times, resulted in more lead leaching into the water. (2)
Infants and young children are most affected by lead because their bodies are still developing, and because children will absorb and retain more lead than adults. (3)
The health effects of lead include neurological impairments, delayed physical and mental development, lower IQ, reduced attention spans, behavioral disorders and, at high levels, can contribute to convulsions, coma, and death. (4) It can affect the organs as well including the:
For children 0-6 years old, there is no safe level of lead. That’s why it’s important to test that you have a lead-free bathtub, and that the bath you’re giving your child does not have undetected lead in it.
Since lead cannot be detected by sight, smell or taste, your bathtub should be tested for lead, particularly in homes with bathtubs made prior to 1978 when lead was common in paints.
There are three methods for doing this:
While no method of lead testing is 100% accurate, it may identify an unsuspecting lead tub in your home.
When cleaning a bathtub, use non-abrasive cleaners to avoid scratching the tub surface that could cause lead to leach into the water. Opt for nonabrasive cleaners that are also nontoxic. Here are a few favorite ingredients and recipes:
Baking soda is a great abrasive that can cut through the grime but doesn’t scratch surfaces or leave a chemical residue behind. Combine baking soda with a few drops of dish soap and warm water to create a natural, gentle, and effective tub scrub. When choosing dish soap, consult the Environmental Working Group (EWG) Guide to Healthy Cleaning.
White vinegar kills mold and bacteria, dissolves soap scum and mineral buildup. It is an acid, so is best to dilute the vinegar in water before applying. Mix 1:1 ratio of vinegar and water into a spray bottle and spray onto tub surfaces.
Cut through dirt, dust, and grime by adding castile soap to water. You can add baking soda as a mild abrasive that doesn’t scratch the tub surface. A word of caution, do not add vinegar, lemon or other acid ingredients to castile soap. It will turn the soap into oil, making it ineffective. (5)
Hydrogen peroxide works to kill disease germs and is a natural whitener. Pour household strength, 3% hydrogen peroxide, around the tub drain where water sits. Watch it bubble for a few seconds and wash with soap and water. It’s important to keep in mind that a concentration of hydrogen peroxide 10% and higher can cause serious irritation.
There are no safe levels of lead exposure for children ages 0-6 years. One way children and adults are exposed to lead can be through the bathtub. Since lead is only detected by testing, consider having your tub tested for lead by a certified lead professional. When cleaning your tub, use nonabrasive cleaners, such as baking soda, so that the tub surface won’t be scratched. Consider using ingredients and recipes that are nontoxic as well.
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