Tag Archive for lead

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.

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

Solving the Paint Mystery

With the old wall-to-wall carpeting gone, the wood floors are finally revealed. Two of the bedroom floors plus the hall were painted. Since we don’t know when that was, it could be lead paint, which was in use before being banned in 1978. The only way to find out about these floors is to have them tested, so for this I’m turning to a state-certified environmental services company, who came out with an XRF meter to test the area. With a quick point of the meter gun, the technician can get an immediate reading on the paint in that spot, reading through 3/8″ of paint, which would include many, if not all layers.

Home contractors can’t treat large areas containing lead paint if they’re not certified as “EPA Lead Safe“.  Flooring companies typically aren’t certified, as it’s not routinely in their line of work.

Thankfully, these floors came out in the clear, and the sanding and refinishing are good to go!

Day One: Family Safety During Reno

We closed on the house today!  As a single mom, I’m grateful and blessed for this opportunity.  After all the formalities, my first trip was to the hardware store to get “outfitted” for reno this afternoon with protective goggles, face masks, and heavy-duty gloves. The EPA covers the basics of what’s needed in protective gear in their “Good Work Practices During Remodeling” — definitely a must-read before starting any home reno project.

Children need special protection from the pollutants lurking in old homes because pound for pound of body weight, they take in more air, consume for food and drink more water, according to the Alliance for Healthy Homes, an essential resource for parents thinking about remodelling. Kids also tend to play close to the ground, where toxins such as lead often settle.  Frequent hand-to-mouth activity also places children at greater risk than adults.

In short, kids should not come in contact with any remodelling or construction work area.  Despite their curiosity, they need a safe space until both the work is done and completely cleaned up, whether that means living with family or friends temporarily, or sealing away the work area according to EPA standards.  Keeping kids completely off the property is the family rule for the Healthy Home Project.

With this house, the asbestos was thankfully removed several weeks ago when the boiler leaked and had to be replaced. I got the certification papers at the closing showing that the house is now asbestos-free.  When choosing an abatement contractor, the company must be licensed and have a good reputation…to avoid surprises. I asked for certification of their work on company letterhead documenting what was done.

This afternoon I took down drop ceilings in four rooms.  Two of the rooms had two ceilings each…one over another. It wouldn’t have happened without assistance from a young man who works at the local hardware store and was an amazing help!

Recapping Day One…have in place a safe family living arrangement during renovation, keeping children away from the work area, get proper protection for the job at hand, and accept help when needed!