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Door Handles of Deception

If you have recently discovered Healthy Homes and Gardens, you will now be across the effects lead poisoning can have on our bodies. This can be said for a client who had been following us and educating herself on the seemingly harmless objects which we surround ourselves with.

This client came to us with concerns about her antique door handles, purchased from an auction about 20 years ago. The handles were to be used in every bedroom, wardrobe, bathroom, linen, etc. With a total of 30+ handles, most of which are touched multiple times a day, there was reasonable apprehension of what could be hiding within.

We visited the house in Cloverdale with

a Bruker S1 Titan 800. Using the RoHS

calibration, we began testing the handles in question.

As the instrument commenced scanning, an immediate FAIL result appeared (see image to right) High levels of lead were confirmed by the pXRF (see results below)


Anything over 1300 ppm is considered a fail, which indicates the handle contains over 10x the safe limit. At almost 17,000 ppm the handles could present a health risk to the residents and guests.

Continue reading to find out how.

How could this affect me?

A door handle could be considered one of the biggest risks in your household. Touching a lead contaminated object daily can affect you in the following ways:

- Lead can be absorbed into the body through the hands and fingertips.

- Lead can remain on the hands and contaminate your food, resulting in lead consumption.

- Touching your child or pets can pass the contamination onto them.

- Children able to reach the handles may put their fingers in their mouth and ingest lead.

In hope of saving the client from having to replace every handle in their house, we performed a swab test. Using specialised wipes, we tested cleaned and uncleaned handles to see if any lead would transfer to your hands when touched.

The results brought relief when they came back with no positive readings for lead on the swabs (see below)

<LOD = less than limit of detection.

The instrument could not detect any traces of lead from the samples that were taken, indicating that no lead was transferred when rubbed vigorously.

As a result, we are able to say the handles are safe to remain in the home as long as they are not sanded back or stripped of their lacquer coating.

What could have caused such a high reading?

The handles are made of brass. Brass can sometimes have lead added (up to 8%) to help with the machinability of the metal. Whilst this is not generally an issue with things like door handles and ornaments, it can be an issue in brass fittings used in plumbing. There have been many occurrences in recent years where the lead has leached into drinking water, for example, Perth Children’s Hospital. It is likely there are high levels of lea within the handles, but luckily for the owner, none that is causing harm.

If you are concerned about potential risks in the home, including door handles and water pipes/fittings, please get in touch and we can help make sure you are safe from all hazards.

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