Introduction to Tamara Rubin
(for those new to this website!)
Tamara Rubin lives in Portland, Oregon and is a child health advocate, author, documentary filmmaker, and mother of four sons. Her young men are now 24, 18, 15, and 12. She has won multiple national awards for her Lead-poisoning prevention advocacy work (including two from U.S. government agencies). In 2020 she had more than 1.165 million unique individual readers visit her #LeadSafeMama blog – from more than 200 countries (per Google Analytics) around the world!
It is with the help, support, and participation of these readers that she conducts and reports on independent testing of consumer goods for toxicants (Lead, Mercury, Arsenic, Cadmium, and Antimony), using high-accuracy X-Ray Fluoresence analysis (read more about that here). She goes by #LeadSafeMama on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram and has over 2,700 separate posts of information (mostly consumer goods test results) on her blog here at LeadSafeMama.com.
Tamara’s advocacy work has been mentioned in print in The New York Times; the New York Post; Mother Jones; Parents Magazine; Vice.com; MNN.com; TruthOut; WebMD; the Huffington Post,;USA Today; Grok Nation, and more (too many outlets to list!) – and in other media (T.V. and radio), on the Today Show; Kids in the House; Al Jazeera English; The Voice of Russia; CBS This Morning, and through news stories on CBS; ABC; NBC, and even Fox News – as well as in countless podcasts and other interviews.
Continue reading below the images.
When tested with an XRF instrument, the brass dangly drawer pull / cabinet knob pictured here (purchased at Hobby Lobby) had the following readings:
#1) Dangly part of the pull
- Lead (Pb): 35,800 +/- 1,000 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 862 +/- 131 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 6,922 +/- 259 ppm
- Cadmium (Cd): 192 +/- 62 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 402,300 +/- 2,600 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 540,400 +/- 2,800 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 5,257 +/- 320 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 5,874 +/- 397 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 215 +/- 129 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 170 +/- 50 ppm
#2) 6-pointed star backing of the pull
- Lead (Pb): 31,900 +/- 6,300 ppm
- Antimony (Sb): 543 +/- 225 ppm
- Tin (Sn): 7,340 +/- 1,610 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 374,200 +/- 63,000 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 519,500 +/- 84,000 ppm
- Nickel (Ni): 5,116 +/- 695 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 4,884 +/- 566 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 468 +/- 152 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 554 +/- 195 ppm
- Silver (Ag): 156 +/- 82 ppm
- Niobium (Nb): 1,764 +/- 380 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 654 +/- 387 ppm
#3) Metal washer
- Tin (Sn): 187 +/- 117 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 105,200 +/- 3,000 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 1,801 +/- 611
- Iron (Fe): 871,500 +/- 4,000 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 534 +/- 186 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 1,304 +/- 332 ppm
- Niobium (Nb): 1,799 +/- 195 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 16,000 +/- 1,500 ppm
#4) Metal nut
- Zinc (Zn): 168,400 +/- 3,300 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 824,100 +/- 3,700 ppm
- Chromium (Cr): 581 +/- 169 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 428 +/- 248 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 2,804 +/- 805 ppm
#5) Screw attached to base
- Niobium (Nb): 1,773 +/- 149 ppm
- Zinc (Zn): 180,900 +/- 15,000 ppm
- Copper (Cu): 869 +/- 218 ppm
- Iron (Fe): 491,700 +/- 22,000 ppm
- Manganese (Mn): 2,594 +/- 421 ppm
- Titanium (Ti): 1,124 +/- 437 ppm
“Tamara, tell me more about this testing…”
Testing is done with the same instrument used by the Consumer Product Safety Commission to test consumer goods for Lead and other metallic toxicants [to screen items intended for use by children to ensure they fall within legal limits]. All tests are done for a minimum of 60 seconds, unless otherwise noted. Tests are repeated multiple times on each component, to confirm the results. Test results are science-based, accurate, and replicable.
How much Lead is “too much” Lead?
- Anything 100 ppm Lead or higher in the substrate (the base plastic or metal or other material) of an item intended for use by children manufactured today in the United States is considered illegal and unsafe for children to play with or use.
- Anything 90 ppm Lead or higher in the paint, glaze or coating (also of a modern item intended for use by children manufactured today) is considered illegal.
- This newly-purchased cabinet knob came in at over 35,000 ppm Lead in an object that a child could and would easily touch. However – this is not illegal*(!)
*Regardless of the year manufactured, cabinet knobs and drawer pulls are not considered to be (and have never been considered to be) “items intended for use by children” unless they are specifically and intentionally sold as part of piece of furniture made for a child’s room (or sold and marked for use by children) – and so are not regulated for total content of heavy metal toxicants like Lead, Cadmium and Antimony. That said, items that children might reasonably come into contact with on a regular basis (like a pull for the dresser drawer where they keep their clothes!) with SHOULD (ethically) – as a rule – be entirely negative for Lead (or the very least be under 90 ppm).
With the level of Lead found, I would not consider this safe to have in a home under any circumstances (with or without children!) and would recommend disposing of it, ASAP.
What’s the solution?
While you will see that some choices from Hobby Lobby may be Lead-free (click on the links below for more examples), we – as consumers (without an XRF instrument in hand) – really don’t have the information nor tools to know which knobs or pulls might be Leaded and which might be Lead-free. As a result, I recommend sticking with plain undecorated wood [or solid stainless steel — but not stainless-, nickel-, or silver-“finish” (i.e. plated-brass, which is often just a wear-prone thin layer of plating – or even paint – applied over a substrate of Leaded–brass)] for cabinet knobs and drawer-pulls in children’s rooms. You can decorate wooden knobs yourself (with Lead-free acrylic paint) if desired, but we have chosen undecorated, unpainted plain wood knobs for the cabinets in our children’s rooms. Some modern resin or plastic choices (like this one) are also likely to be Lead-free – but again – as a consumer, it is nearly impossible for you to know for certain. IF you suspect you have Leaded brass knobs on furniture that your child touches daily, please consider wrapping them in painter’s tape (the blue stuff – NOT electrical tape, which can itself be Leaded), until you have the opportunity to test them or replace them.
Some additional reading that may be of interest:
- More products from Hobby Lobby that I have tested.
- More Cabinet Knobs that I have tested.
- More Drawer Pulls that I have tested.
- A short video that shows you how to efficiently navigate the more than 2,700 posts and pages of information on this website (please definitely watch this if you have not yet, it will help you find all the things!)
To read more about the testing methodology for nearly all test results reported on this blog, click here. Thank you for reading, and for sharing my posts. As always, please let me know if you have any questions. With 1.165 Million unique readers in 2020 alone I am not always able to answer each and every question personally, but I do try. Thank you.