You use your bathroom every day, but do you ever think twice about what you and your family are bathing in? We become complacent within our surrounding, often needing a reminder to remain alert. Within this article you may find necessary reminders to check your living environment more thoroughly and frequently.
The World Health Organisation is working towards developing guidelines to prevent lead poisoning, as it is classified as a major public chemical health concern (World Health Organisation, 2020). Fortunately, lead poisoning is 100% avoidable when the appropriate prevention and monitoring methods are actioned.
We visited a family home to test for traces of lead using a portable XRF Bruker TRACER 5g, to determine whether the shared bathroom was free of lead and safe to use. The family were hoping to renovate their bathroom, however, they thought it would be safest to check for lead prior to removing any tiles.
After sampling the tiles on the walls and floors with safe levels of lead, we thought to also check the ceramics in the bathroom including porcelain sinks, baths, soap dishes and feature tiles were commonly coloured with lead prior to the 1970’s. The client’s home was built around 1955, which suggested the potential for lead contamination.
The ‘safe’ limit for lead is 0.1%, however as shown in the graph below, the basin, bath and soap dish produced a fail reading with the following levels;
Bath – green peaks = 7.461 (More than 70 times the ‘safe’ amount of lead!!)
Soap dish – red peaks = 2.274
Basin – blue peaks = 6.939
The peaks in the graph below show massive lead spikes (Pb) in all three samples. Our in-house scientist has analysed these results to verify they are true lead peaks, rather than a false positive reading cased by the overlap of peaks from another element in the spectrum.
What are the effects of lead?
Lead poisoning can have lasting mental and physical effects on a person’s health who has encountered small or large amounts of lead. These effects include depression, behavioural changes, kidney and brain damage, among many other things.
Any damage caused by lead cannot be reversed, which is especially harmful to children as they are still developing.
What does this mean?
The bathtub presents the highest potential to cause harm, especially given children frequently use it. The greatest hazard would occur if the surface is damaged, due to chips, erosion, or abrasive cleaners. The lead can seep into the water and poison anyone who ingests it. Young children are most at risk as they often put their wet fingers in their mouth, some may even drink the bath water.
Soap dishes can be more of a risk that you would expect as your soap sits in it, absorbing any leaching lead. You then rub the soap over your skin, which gets absorbed into your system.
The results indicate that anyone who touches the basin, bath or bath water is at risk. This means that the affected areas need to be resurfaced or replaced. Resurfacing the bath and sink will protect your family as it provides a sealed cover over the contaminated surface and is a cost-effective solution.
What can I do?
Deciding to renovate and replace the affected areas of the bathroom is a more costly and potentially harmful process if not done correctly. However, this option will eliminate you and your family’s risk of lead exposure in the future.
When selecting either of these options, it is important to hire professionals as both processes increase the risk of exposure to lead. The tools and materials used to perform these two tasks must then be carefully discarded as hazardous material.
In conclusion, it is essential for your health to test your home and bathroom for traces of lead as it can be concealed within places you wouldn’t expect, especially when renovating an older home.
To find out more information on lead paint testing follow this link: https://www.healthyhomesandgardens.com.au/lead-paint-testing
World Health Organisation. (2020). Lead Poisoning and Health.