Bathtubs Are Insidious Source For Dangerous Lead

Armen Hareyan's picture
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For years, Joe Rossi, the president of European Coatings couldn't figure out why his company sold more products to professional bathtub reglazers in Massachusetts than in any other area of the country.

"It's a nice problem to have," says Rossi. "Massachusetts is our top market for tub reglazing."

Rossi now believes awareness about old tubs that can leech dangerous levels of lead is the reason for the boom in sales to the Bay State.

"Massachusetts has some of the oldest houses in the country and it has the most stringent lead inspection laws," he said. "Reglazing an old tub will reseal the lead and prevent further exposure and it's less expensive than installing a new tub."

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While awareness about lead in the home has risen recently due to some highly publicized federal toy recalls, old bathtubs remain a relatively unknown source of the toxic element for many households.

"I would say about 60 to 70 percent of the tubs we see and inspect are leeching lead and the homeowners have no idea," said Rossi.

The issue of lead in bathtubs drew the attention of ABC News more than 14 years ago, when a Good Morning America segment focused on a Massachusetts couple who had exhausted all potential sources of the lead that was turning up in their daughter's bloodstream during routine medical tests. Eventually they tested the home's old bathtub with LeadCheck Swabs and found the tub where they bathed their daughter was leeching lead. It was a finding that surprised even the child's doctors.

"There are many sources of lead in the average household - from toys and ceramics, to jewelry and dinnerware," said Marcia J. Stone, president and CEO of Hybrivet Systems Inc., of Natick, MA, makers of LeadCheck Swabs. "Old tubs are also a typical source but it's one that is still unfortunately overlooked."

Most tub manufacturers stopped using lead in the enamel and glazing years ago but tubs made as recently 15 to 20 years ago typically contain lead that can leech as the glazing wears away. The inexpensive LeadCheck Swabs, sold in most retail home centers, can quickly and accurately determine if your tub is leeching lead.

Repeated lead exposure in children has been linked to learning disabilities, behavioral problems, lowered IQ and even death.

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