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3 Steps to a Lead-Free Bathtub

After discovering that the 1960’s avocado-green bathtub had lead in the finish, it was time to decide whether to replace or reglaze it. Time and resources being key, the process took 3 steps:

1. Reglaze or replace? Re-glazing would mean less waste (ie no bathtubs filling up landfills). In considering a new tub, the cost of removal and installation was prohibitive for this project’s budget. Additionally, one of our blog readers found that when shopping for a new tub, none of the large manufacturers would certify their tubs as lead-free. One company even wrote him back to say their tubs still use lead in the glaze. This is an area where bathtub manufacturers need more transparency. So, I decided to go the reglaze route.

2. I asked the re-glazing company for the names of the products they use, and contacted that manufacturer, which confirmed they are lead-free. I also requested the company email the MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) of the products, which verify in writing that the primer and finish enamel don’t contain lead.

3. To prepare for the job, I sectioned off the area with plastic sheeting over the doorways after removing items from the work space, and took other steps per EPA home remodeling guidelines. The guidelines are created for DIYers, so they’re fairly easy, and save on cleanup time. Following the EPA steps are perhaps the most important part of any project to ensure the rest of the home stays clean and free of dust. It’s up to the homeowner to take these steps unless the contracting firm has EPA lead-safe certification. Legal requirements apply depending on the job, so it’s always best to check the EPA website for the latest rules.

The resurfacing contractor explained tubs today are not made of the quality produced decades ago. For this project, the avocado-green bathtub went from old and dingy to brand-new white. The re-glazing process delivered a like-new tub in under two hours. It was a cost-effective, quick way to recycle and renew in this bathroom.

Moving in a Healthier Direction

A great friend recently moved several hours away to a cottage on a nature preserve. For most families, moving can be hectic no matter where you live. Visiting her new home brought back fresh memories of our three moves in seven months before renovating the Healthy Home Project. Despite a sea of packing boxes and a new school for the kids, a few things made the transitions smoother, and healthier:

1) Explaining things to the kids early on, and enlisting their help: This will vary depending on children’s ages and stages, but getting it out into the open made things a whole lot easier. Talking about the things we’d miss and the positives on the other end was helpful, too. KidsHealth.org has specific tips for talking to children of different ages.

2) Enlisting help of friends and family: A working plan with days when help is needed can give much-needed structure during times of busy transition. During one of our moves a friend and her daughter helped for an hour transporting dishes. A small block of time can mean the world.

3) Keeping routines the same: With all the change afoot, continuing little everyday rituals can bring comfort to the whole family, kids especially. Eating meals at the same time, connecting with friends, and bedtime routines can all be kept to one degree or another, even if the scenery is different.

4) Having an “essentials” bag for each person: Kids can help pack their own, with books, stuffed animals and anything else familiar and well-loved. Activities like small games can be helpful too. Ditto for any items that would be missed if lost among the packing boxes.

4) Giving back and giving thanks: We used the opportunity of downsizing to give away anything that wasn’t essential. Opportunities to give back can help offset moving stress. The American Academy of Pediatrics lists other great tips for minimizing stress during a move.

When it’s over and the last box is unpacked (even if that’s many months later), the fresh surroundings can be good for all and can help shape kids – and the whole family – with a new perspective.

Bathroom Makeover: From Vinyl to Recycled Tile

One of the most fun aspects of renovating a home is shopping for materials that will take a room from conventional to beautiful. The vinyl tile in one bathroom is from the 60’s and completely worn. Vinyl flooring (or polyvinyl chloride – PVC) can contain harmful lead, phthalates and other toxins, as found in a study from the nonprofit HealthyStuff.org. So replacing it with something healthier is great for kids, who tend to spend a lot of time crawling and playing on the ground.

Because older vinyl or composite tiles can also contain asbestos, I had these tested. The lab evaluated both the tile itself and the mastic (adhesive). Thankfully, both tests came out clear, and it was time to demo the floor. The tiles came up easily, a welcome surprise.

Big box home improvement stores have a wide selection of ceramic and porcelain tiles, but many are manufactured overseas without recycled content. After plenty of searching, I found Florim USA tile at a local, family-owned store. It’s made in the USA, has 40% pre-consumer recycled content, and is certified by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). At about $4 a square foot (uninstalled), it’s an affordable “green” option. Other great choices are Oceanside Glasstile, which I’ve used (and loved) in a previous home and stunning Fireclay Tile, made in California.

For the tub surround, I found a treasure trove of neutral wall tiles at Green Demolitions, similar in concept to Habitat for Humanity resale stores. The tiles are inherently recycled since they came to this nonprofit store as leftovers from someone else’s big project. They were a fraction of the retail cost and are in-the-box new. All proceeds go towards charity, so it’s a win-win way to renovate. With the vinyl out and the recycled tile in, this bathroom space just got a little healthier.

 

Resource:
Like to learn more? See info on vinyl floors and kids’ health at the Center for Health, Environment and Justice.

Need to Know: Is There Lead in the Bathtub?

Is it really necessary to test the bathtub for lead?  Turns out it could be. One of the little-known sources of kids’ lead exposure may be where they spend hours of time.

When the story made headlines that a Virginia family discovered their tub was a lead hazard, more parents started asking the question. Another news report in Dallas found,

The lead comes from cast iron or steel tubs coated with a porcelain glaze. As the glaze wears down from age and use, the lead in the glaze can leach into bath water. Young children who drink bathwater or put their wet hands or toys in their mouths during bath time are at greatest risk. (Source: Dallas News 10/19/14)

Despite awareness that lead-based paint can be found in homes built or remodeled before 1978, bathtubs aren’t regulated by that law. That being the case, I decided to test our bathtub.

I picked up a lead test kit at a home center in the paint isle. They’re also available at general big box stores and online. (Consumer Reports gives a rundown of options in the Lead Test Kit Buying Guide.)

I’ve never used a DIY lead test kit before, and found the directions were easy to follow, and the process quick. The kit can leave marks on surfaces, so I’d only go this route if testing a hidden area, or if replacing or reglazing the tub anyway. Another option is to call a professional environmental testing company, though the cost is considerably more.

If testing a tub sounds complicated or costly, it’s not. The kit retails at about $10 for a package of two, and the actual test process takes about five minutes, start to finish.

The results? They were positive. Even for someone who works in children’s health, this was an eye-opener. I can only be thankful no one’s taken a bath in there, and I’ll be getting this older tub reglazed or replaced before anyone does. (More on that in a future post.) The good news? This was a hazardous exposure avoided. The bad news is there are homes – and kids – all over the country that could potentially be exposed to lead by older bathtubs. Spreading the word, and testing is the only way to know for sure.

More info at www.LeadSafeAmerica.org

Celebrating Earth Week with Cleaner Energy

Many kids celebrate Earth Week by planting gardens, walking to school, composting, packing waste-free lunches, and even hosting a “no carbon footprint day” when lights and computers throughout school stay off.

At the Healthy Home Project house, one goal is to become less energy dependent (though we can’t exactly live off-the-grid in such an urban area). A great choice would be investing in solar, but there are economical choices anyone can do, such as switching to “green” power. What does that mean exactly? Instead of a utility provider sourcing electricity via a company of their choice, a renter or homeowner can choose a supplier offering renewable energy. The delivery and billing process stays the same, which makes the switch pretty seamless.

Our home’s new supplier offers a choice of 50% renewable energy (for the same or slightly less cost), or 100% renewable energy (slightly more per month). With the 100% “green” energy option (from wind power), I’m noticing that making the switch instills a greater awareness of energy use overall. We’re more apt to turn off the lights in the first place, making this choice closer to budget neutral. Kids can easily get involved by helping to reduce electricity use every day.

As the Dr. Seuss classic The Lorax says,

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
It’s not.”

There are more ideas for any home on the HHP Pinterest pages. Just one switch can be a great start to a healthier home and planet.