Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Getting the Lead Out

centerImage via Wikipedia

Lead poisoning wasn't something I worried much about until a few years ago when the news came out that many vinyl lunchboxes contained lead. I was concerned so I ordered the kit, tested the lunchbox and learned that it was in fact leaching lead onto my son's food. As if we don't have enough things to worry about! The lunchbox went in the garbage and we moved to the old-fashioned metal kind.

This year we're back to a vinyl lunchbox now that manufacturers seem to have gotten their act together. A recent discussion with my family and a new state program made me realize though that there are still reasons to be concerned about lead.

Cover of Cover via Amazon

The discussion came up while reading Little House in the Big Woods to my two boys. The chapter was about Pa making bullets out of lead every night by the fire. (By the way, in case your boys think Little House books are for girls, they might want to think again - the hunting and animal stories are keeping my boys entertained!) My youngest son didn't know what lead was, so my husband gave him a reference he could understand. "Do you know those fishing weights that I bite when I'm putting them on your line?" That clued him in, but left me with questions. Um, really, we bite the lead weights? I guess this pinches them together to get them to stay on, but I have never noticed the biting part. My husband assures me the children don't do this. Now, I just have to work on him...

Lead isn't found in pencils (actually, they have always been falsely labeled "lead pencils" despite the fact the center is graphite), but where is lead found? The biggest concern is in the paint found in older homes. Before the 1950s, paint contained up to 50% lead. That was eventually cut to 1%, and then in 1978 it was cut to just a trace amount. While remodeling may be the way to get the lead out, it can also lead to significant lead exposure so check with your local government program for tips before you proceed.

Other ways that kids may be exposed, include:
* Candies purchased in or imported from Mexico
* Toys - Check the latest lead recall list to find out more.
* Cookware that isn't specifically labeled lead-free and safe for cooking. Specifically, look out for ceramic pieces that are designed more as artwork rather than cookware.
* Electronics - As long as the electronics are intact, you should be fine, but the concern comes when the break. Just something to think about before you let them dismantle that broken computer or television...
* Hot tap water - This one surprised me, but the CDC recommends only drinking cold water from the tap. If you want it hot, you should heat it. Most lead from drinking water comes from the household pipes, not the source.

According to the CDC, lead poisoning is particularly damaging to children. There is no level of lead exposure that is considered safe. At least we don't have to worry about them chewing on their pencils - graphite is non-toxic!

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  1. Oh my goodness, I am so happy to be teaching your son! You are a lady after my own heart. (I did my masters thesis on developmentally appropriate environmental education.) However, now that I know we about your interest in the environment, I'm afraid your going to have to be my go-to parent volunteer. :)

  2. I would love to come teach them!! Ask away... Stephen is lucky to have such a great group of teachers.