Lead in Porcelain Bathtubs
Lead Poisoning and Your Tub Glaze.
When I started Renew Kitchen & Bath, I quickly became aware that factory glazed porcelain bathtubs can leach lead. I also noticed that a few companies in the bathtub refinishing industry used this as a way to scare people into getting their bathtub refinished. By refinishing the bathtub the lead glaze gets encapsulated or sealed in by the coating applied to the tub. I noticed that some media outlets picked up on this for news stories. Just Google, "lead in porcelain bathtubs" and you will find numerous stories about children and adults getting lead poisoning from their bathtub. One blog explains a 66-year-old man underwent personality changes, became irritable, aggressive, and paranoid. His doctor found that he had severe short term memory loss, abdominal pain, and constipation. It turns out he received severe lead poisoning after drinking wine made from grapes soaked in a bathtub with a lead enamel glaze.1
I thought to myself, if this is really a concern surly the EPA would have rules in place or at least had published a warning letting people know of the hazard. Yet even now when I review the Environmental Protection Agency, 2014 edition, "Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home", I can not find any reference to bathtubs with lead being a concern.
According to the article "Facts About Lead in Porcelain & Ceramic Glaze", written by Vermont Housing & Conservation Board, they found that 75% of the tubs tested in pre-1978 housing enrolled in the lead hazard reduction program are positive for lead in the glaze. 40% of the tubs that were positive also were found to have detectable lead on a dust wipe sample, which could indicate a leaching hazard."
I asked the Environmental Protection Agency, if a bathtub tests positive for lead is this a health concern? They responded with, "Deteriorated enamel from a bathtub should not pose a significant risk. The child would have to come into contact with lead dust or chips. Rinsing the bathtub before each use would minimize the hazard. The pH of the water would increase or become basic, with the use of soap products, an environment unlikely to leach lead from the enamel. A child would have to consume bath water for the possibility of exposure to exist because inorganic lead can only be inhaled or ingested. If you would like a copy of this email feel free to contact me.
To find out if your bathtub glaze contains lead you can test it. Test kits are now available at just about any local home improvement store. We have made them available on this site through Amazon. When using the test kit make sure you read all the directions because where and how you test the tub is very important.
If your tub test positive for lead you have four option. You can get the tub refinished, purchase a tub insert, buy a new tub or do nothing. I have two children and if my tub tested positive for lead, I would get it refinished. This encapsulates the tub with a new finish. But remember that is what my business does. Telling my kids not to drink the bath water is not an option!
At the very least please read the resources I mentioned to assist in making an informed decision.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.
2. The photos in this article are of a bathtub that tested positive for lead and we refinished in Barrington.