June 12, 2021 — Saturday
Updated: August 1, 2023 — Tuesday
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For those new to this website:
Tamara Rubin is a multiple-Federal-award-winning independent advocate for childhood Lead-poisoning prevention and consumer goods safety, and a documentary filmmaker. She is also a mother of Lead-poisoned children (two of her sons were acutely Lead-poisoned in 2005). Since 2009, Tamara has been using XRF technology (a scientific method used by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) to test consumer goods for toxicants (specifically heavy metals — including Lead, Cadmium, Mercury, Antimony, and Arsenic). All test results reported on this website are science-based, accurate, and replicable. Items are tested multiple times to confirm the test results for each component tested. Tamara’s work was featured in Consumer Reports Magazine in February of 2023 (March 2023 print edition).
In response to my sharing the above article about a singing bowl with Lead, a reader asked the following question on Facebook:
“I hope you don’t mind me asking a very novice question. When metals are cast like this and then touched with human hands can the Lead actually leach out onto our hands and then eventually enter into our bodies?”
It is normally hand-to-mouth activity that’s a concern — frequent, repeated hand-to-mouth interaction with a potentially high-Lead object (that might be held/touched frequently — or even used as a fidget by a child — like the small bowl pictured here). Normal hand-to-mouth activity like …
- handling your high-Lead bowl, picking up your coffee cup by the brim — and then drinking your tea— without washing your hands after touching the high-Lead item.
- handling your high-Lead item (keys, singing bowl, leaded jewelry, etc.), and then picking up an apple and eating it (or picking up tortilla chips and eating them — licking the salt off of your fingers afterwards as one does) without washing your hands before you handle your food.
- handling a high-Lead-content item (like the high-Lead faux pearls pictured below) and then unconsciously putting your fingertip into your mouth, biting your nails, etc.
An isolated interaction is not normally a concern.
In most cases (with few exceptions), one usage of one thing like this (one time) is not going to “POISON” you. Said another way: touching a Leaded item once is unlikely to directly contribute to any kind of a measurable change in Blood Lead Level today. However, interacting with (and specifically touching with your bare hands, holding/handing or otherwise using) high Lead consumer goods on a regular basis (or even periodically) could contribute to the potential aggregate (cumulative) background Lead exposure in your life (and body) over time.
Why should we be concerned about Lead in consumer goods?
- Lead is a potent neurotoxicant and disrupts all biological functions.
- “Most of the Lead that has ever gone into your body is still there!” — per Dr. Bruce Lanphear’s statement in my film.
- As a result, whenever we can avoid any potential sources of Lead, we should (especially in cases where inexpensive Lead-free alternatives are plentiful and readily available)!
- Given the potent toxicity of Lead, we should strive to eliminate Leaded items from our life whether or not any scientific body has been able to definitively demonstrate a potential risk of exposure for that specific type of item, given either normal regular use as intended or any potential exposure resulting from a single use.
- We should strive to avoid any and all potential sources of Lead because there is no “safe” level of Lead exposure for human beings.
- We should avoid any potential sources of Lead because we cannot count on manufacturers/ importers/ distributors to evaluate or understand the potential health impacts of the products they make (like this singing bowl), as doing so would likely negatively impact their bottom line.
Corporations don’t care.
Of course — as Upton Sinclair famously pointed out — it is often in their interest (as a manufacturer) for a company to not know or understand these things. And, as such, most of this — the presence of so many different heavy metal toxicants in consumer goods in use in our homes today — is not regulated at all because there is no agency or business that would financially benefit (or not be financially negatively impacted) from confirming whether or not a particular Leaded brass item (or other high-Lead content items) might cause harm when used “as intended.” And, separately when used as could reasonably be anticipated, by a child, were they to handle or otherwise interact with the object (regardless of the maker’s ostensible “intended consumer” of the product).
Government agencies couldn’t possibly step up.
With the enormous quantity of consumer goods on the planet (coming from every country and made of every possible material) it is also not possible for any government agency to properly assess these risks on our behalf, so we have to take this on ourselves and make educated choices that are safest for our families (with the information available to us in the ABSENCE of comprehensive scientific testing and evaluation of the risk of ALL THINGS).
So again, in the words of another scientist/researcher highlighted in my film, Mark Pokras, together we should strive for a world where the policy is that “Thou shalt not use Lead in anything.”
The best way to get from here to there is to start eliminating consumer goods from our lives that we know to have unsafe levels of Lead. And perhaps (we can at least hope) this will eventually eliminate the market for these products, which may in turn push manufacturers to cease the creation of Lead-containing products.
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing Lead Safe Mama articles with your friends and communities. Please let me know if you have any questions and I will do my best to answer them as soon as I have a (kid-free) moment.
Owner — Lead Safe Mama, LLC