This is both a moral and ethical question—one that calls into question our laws, our standards and our collective conscience and intentions for the future.
I don’t have a definitive answer for you, but here are some thoughts…
1. I am working on starting a “lead museum”—a bit of an informal collection of things I have found in my travels that contain (expected or unexpected) high levels of lead. [Please consider sending the item to me (especially if it is is small / inexpensive to ship!)]
2. Was it recently manufactured? If so, please consider returning it. Even if what you bought was being sold as “crystal” (as an example), I am sure you did not understand the implications of drinking from leaded crystal when you purchased it – and had you known, you would have purchased a similar item in unleaded glass. Returning these things to the manufacturer will help encourage more environmentally responsible manufacturing processes (and hopefully you can also get your money back).
3. Is it a building component or an antique? You have to determine if it has any value – to you or to someone else, and whether that value (as an antique [and important piece of our collective history] for example) outweighs the potential for the item to poison a child [or an adult for that matter.] Can it be sealed or refinished to make it less hazardous? Will the sealing or refinishing diminish the value? Is it chipping or peeling? And yes – as a consumer (and not as a contractor) you are fully and legally allowed to dispose of these things in your everyday household trash. Could you dispose of it as hazardous waste? Probably yes. Would the hazardous waste site think you are crazy for taking an old piggy bank to their site instead of the regular dump? Probably yes.
4. My main question is this: Is it better in our world – above ground? or below ground? Even though landfill is an issue (and the potential for leaded items to impact the water table) I think given the amount of toxicity we have already in our landfills and the huge potential for a leaded item to cause harm, it is better for these items to go back underground – with the lead ending up at least a little closer to where it came from. It’s not the same as putting it back in a mine, but it will give the next couple of generations the opportunity to recover their collective cognitive potential – making it possible for the young adults 20 or 30 years from now to come up with an even better solution.
November 1, 2013