Need to Know: Is There Lead in the Bathtub?

Is it really necessary to test the bathtub for lead? ┬áTurns 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

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