Below is a re-post of a post I originally shared on Facebook on December 16, 2014.
Note: for newly manufactured consumer goods the amount of Lead that is considered unsafe (and illegal) in an item intend for use by children is anything 90 ppm Lead (or higher) in the paint, glaze or coating.
This came across the wire today – VERY INTERESTING:
Vincent Coluccio, DrPH
Vincent Coluccio Associates, Inc.
Red Hook, NY
A report by the Ceramic Tile Institute of America, Inc., “CTIOA Field Report 2000-11-20” is of interest. The Study subject matter is stated as: “Ceramic tile lead hazards and miscellaneous other lead risks in residential remodeling and construction”.
A key sentence of the CTIOA report reads as: “The crushing, abrading or shattering of a (lead) glaze can release fine dust in which the lead becomes bioavailable”, and the report does a good job of describing the many factors that can affect the bioavailability of lead in deteriorated glaze and other common leaded components. This report is available at www.ctioa.org/reports/fr79.html
[2019 update, the above referenced report is no longer available on the link above. I found the original PDF and uploaded it here.]
Here’s an excerpt from the HUD Guidelines, Second Edition July 2012, Page 7-21:
4. Ceramic Tile and Other Fixtures Some inspectors and risk assessors test non-paint surfaces such as unpainted ceramic tile and porcelain bathtubs for lead content because these items may be a source of lead exposure during demolition or renovation. These items are not considered lead-based paint; their presence does not need to be included in disclosure under the Lead Disclosure Rule (see Appendix 6).
Click here for posts with some tile I have tested.
Lead-containing ceramic tile is not a common cause for childhood lead poisoning. However, surface abrading and demolition activities such as breaking or crushing may release lead. For this reason, some inspectors and risk assessors include ceramic tile and bathtubs in pre-rehabilitation inspections/risk assessments and reference the OSHA lead in construction standard (29 CFR 1926.62) in their reports (see Appendix 6).
Ceramic tiles are still available with lead glaze; these are being sold and installed in homes. HUD’s American Healthy Homes Survey found some tiles with lead loadings of 1.0 mg/cm2 or more in homes built after 1977. (HUD, 2011)
Vincent Coluccio, DrPH
Vincent Coluccio Associates, Inc.
Red Hook, NY
The kitchen counter tiles pictured below are from my friend Nancy’s house in Berkeley, California (in the Oakland hills on the Berkeley/Oakland border.)
I tested them for her in 2013 with an XRF instrument.
They were installed new (in a newly built home) in 1992 (which is when her home was built, after the Oakland fire). They tested positive for lead (Pb) at 43,900 ppm.
As always, please let me know if you have any questions.
Thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
Do you recommend a sealer to paint over and encapsulate the lead glaze?
Michael Grohol says
My name is Michael Grohol, I am a Lead Inspector/Assessor, I am licensed through the Califonia Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch Lead-Related Construction unit ID # 23367. when inspecting homes and buildings for the presence of lead, the highest levels of lead that I typically find are in the glaze on ceramic tile. In California, we work under Title 17, California Code of Regulations, Division 1, Chapter 8 Accreditation, Certification, and Work Practices For Led-Based Paint and Lead Hazards. Number 35033 lead-based Paint means paint or other surface coatings that contain an amount of lead equal to or in excess of one milligram per square centimeter ( 1.0 mg/cm2 ) or (0.5%) by weight. I routinely find lead in the glaze on ceramic tile that is ten to twenty plus times over one milligram per square centimeter (1.0 mg/cm ). The lead level readings that I find in the glaze on ceramic tile are typically higher than in the paint. Any common household mild acid such as lemon juice or vinegar will leech lead to the surface of intact tile. I find leaded ceramic tile in the most modest to the most costly of homes.
Thank you for commenting. So great to have you here as a resource!
I am new to your website. I stumbled across it looking for non-toxic dishes. I have been reading your site for several hours the last few days. I have Mexican saltillo tile as my kitchen flooring. They put a glaze over it when they installed it back around 2011. Now I am concerned since we all walk on it barefoot. We (husband, myself, 6 yr old, 1 yr old) are healthy, but we eat very clean and I am very careful about toxic substances in the home. I chose that flooring 8 years ago when I was just starting to learn about toxins in food and environment. My question is: which is worse? Leave it alone since it doesn’t seem to be bothering us? Or remove it and risk contaminating our whole house when it is broken up and demolished? Is there some way to remove it without creating dust? It is 1 ft by 1 ft tiles with thick grout lines. Looks like an old Mexican restaurant floor.
I would start by testing it with a LeadCheck swab. If it is positive with a LeadCheck swab I would get it removed immediately by a certified EPA RRP Contractor, a contractor who would specifically work with a focus on containing any dust. Here’s my Amazon affiliate link for Lead Check swabs: https://amzn.to/2Jbk6Ux
If it is not positive with a LeadCheck swab that does not mean it does not have Lead, but I would follow up by getting it tested with an XRF to confirm if it were negative or positive. Here’s a post with more information about that: https://tamararubin.com/2016/02/tomorrow/
Mexican tile can often be 200,000 to 400,000 ppm Lead. The amount of Lead that is considered toxic in items intended for children is anything 90 ppm or higher in the paint, glaze or coating. Mexican pottery (including tile) is often also very low fire – so the Lead is usually bioavailable (in my experience). Here’s link to all of my posts that are tagged. “Made in Mexico”: https://tamararubin.com/category/made-in-mexico/
I would not live in a home with Mexican tile in the absence of testing – especially with small children. In general, ceramic tile is not a safe option for homes – there are just too many variables.
I would also get a blood test for each of your kids (especially the little one). Lead exposure that is chronic and low-level may not generate immediate symptoms in a child but can cause issues later in life (learning disabilities and behavioral issues – especially in boys.) Here’s a link with more information about that: https://tamararubin.com/2019/02/blood-lead-testing-please-get-everyone-in-the-family-tested-since-you-have-been-living-in-a-house-with-high-lead-paint/
Please let me know if you have any questions after reading those additional links. Thank you for commenting.
Hi Tamara—we already started to demo our Saltillo tile when we learned that it could contain lead—so I used a 3M test swab and applied to to the exposed dusty areas where the top of the tile had been stripped off and the test results were negative for lead. Are we safe or do we need more testing?
Vanessa Salas says
Hi there, I have ceramic glazed tiles in my home. A week ago I scrubbed my tiles with 50/50 water and vinegar and noticed the glaze looked dull after. I came across this article and now am very worried about lead exposure. I will be calling the manufacturer of our tiles in the Am but I’m pretty sure the glaze has lead since the tiles are from China. Do the tiles have to be removed or can they be sealed somehow? My little girls have been walking around barefoot. Can the lead go through skin?
I have literally done the same thing and now I’m freaking out. Our tiles were very cheap and I had to use vinegar and water constantly. Totally nervous. Any advice? Please help if you have any info.
Vanessa Salas says
I had an extra piece of tile in my garage and took it to a lead inspector. They tested it with an xfr analyzer and it had no lead. I would google lead inspector near me and either take a piece of tile to them or have them come to your home to test your tile in your home.
This is brilliant! Thank you so much!
Cesar Salinas says
I’m Handyman, i work all over the Bay Area and often come across some lead containing materials. i know that lead based paint removal/abatement, stabilization requires certified workers and licensing. But what about low lead levels? for example; Is it safe to demo ceramic tile that contains 60 ppm of lead? and since is low level, would the waste be regular construction debris? what are the regulative threshold or the minimum requirements when it comes to low lead levels on paint, ceramic, etc? please advise.
Cesar the Handyman.
Drew More says
load of bollocks – modern glazed porcelain tiles are environmentally friendly, sustainable and do not poison anyone.
Do you work with the tile industry?
What flooring do you recommend for wet areas? Linoleum? Tinted cement? Anything else? I see some tiles you have trated , what brands are they? Although I am not sure if it is available where I am
Hi there. I am working on designing my dream house (it’s probably 4 or 5 years out, depending on fianciances.) It is going to be a very small house (600 sf footprint) and will have concrete floors. I like Marmoleum for the artistic possibilities but I don’t know about the durability and have not yet made a decision about possibly putting some colorful marmoleum mosaic in the bathroom. Click the “tile” tab (keyword) at the top of any tile post – many have brands listed – many do not. I don’t have a tile brand I recommend but some of the ones with brands noted do have good profiles (from a toxicant perspective.) I would never personally use any kind of tile in my home (if I had a choice not to.)
Stefan Robert says
I see a few tiles you have treated, what brands right? Despite the fact that I don’t know whether it is accessible where I am
Malcolm Cottrell says
I lived in a house with lead water pipes until I was seventeen. I am now 87 years old and am still in good physical and mental health.
However I live in an apartment that gas tiled floors and showers, should I be concerned by this as I am planning renovation work in those areas?
If at all possible I would get the tiles tested before demolition OR have them removed whole (don’t have smashed with a sledge hammer for removal.)
I am genuinely happy that you are in good physical and mental health at 87. That is rare these days. To wit: my children have no living grandparents – so not everyone is so lucky. Sometimes when people state they have no impairments I share this article (which you might find interesting, even though you are not the original intended audience for the sentiment.) https://tamararubin.com/2015/02/fine/
Here is a list of symptoms in adults that you might find interesting as well: https://tamararubin.com/2017/01/what-is-the-impact-of-lead-poisoning-in-adults-including-college-age-students/
As far as the pipes go – the older the house (without updates and changes to the water delivery system) the more likely it is that a layer of calcification has built up inside the pipes so your water is safer than it might be otherwise.
What happened in Flint was… they added corrosive chemicals to the water that caused the calcification layer to deteriorate in the older pipes, newly exposing the original leaded components, which caused the water to be contaminated. Does that make sense? It is a bit counter intuitive… but here in Portland when they tested for Lead in the water in the local schools a school that had most recently had all new fittings and fixtures (for water delivery) installed actually had some of the highest lead levels in the city (as a result of water being delivered through pipes fittings and fixtures that had no calcification built up on the inside.)
I think – as a whole – our goal is always to do better for future generations if we can (even if we “turned out ok”).