Top Menu

Lead in Bathtubs? Really?

[Thanks to Malcolm for the inspiration to finally write this post!]

Image from:

Image from: – Thank you!

Is there lead in bathtubs? Really?

Short answer: “Yes!”

Lead in older bathtubs is a big issue—and yet usually overlooked as a potential source of toxicity for children. Both porcelain and enamel coatings can have extremely high levels of lead – both in the surface coating (glaze) and substrate. In my experience – using an XRF and testing tubs around the country in my travels – I have seen up to 300,000 parts per million (and on occasion even higher), and since it can be quite difficult or costly to remove and/or replace a bath tub, in many cases the tubs stay in place and the hazards (from deteriorating surfaces) persist – even after an extensive remodel or update.

Note: I have tested several recently manufactured tubs that were completely lead-free! So newer does seem to be better in this case!

Some articles:

Dallas Morning News – October 2013
“Old bathtubs found to pose lead exposure risks for children”

From the following site:
“In addition to lead-based paint on the walls or salvaged pieces brought into the home, it has been determined that about 75% of pre-1978 bathtubs have lead in their glaze and that about 40% of these tubs will have measurable levels of lead dust when dust samples are collected from the surface of the glaze. Older claw foot tubs, like well-appointed front doors, are another popular retro salvage yard item.”

Another piece (from 1995):
Lead in worn ceramic glaze confirmed

From Hudson Valley Parent
Lead in Bathtubs Could Be Poisoning Your Child

Where Lead Hides from University of Southern California

Facts about Lead in Porcelain & Cermaic Glazes, by the Vermont Housing & Conservation Board – Lead Hazard Reduction Program.

An old post of mine (Tamara)

And – on top of all this, from the CDC NIOSH Science Blog, from February 4, 2013
Dangers of Bathtub Refinishing

Another good one:  Ceramic Tile Institute of America, Ceramic Tile Lead Hazards and Miscellaneous Other Lead Risks in Residential Remodeling and Construction, by Judson Bryant

Thanks for reading!  If you have another link that you think belongs here, please let me know and I will add it to this collection.

2 Responses to Lead in Bathtubs? Really?

  1. Stephanie April 12, 2014 at 1:46 am #

    Hi Tamara,

    Last year, one of the tubs in our house was confirmed to have a high lead level in the glazing. It was manufactured in the late 1980s or early 1990s. We weren’t using it to bathe our child and obviously don’t plan to start! However, we are starting plans to gut and rebuild that bathroom. We are opting for a new tub rather than refinishing since we’ll have 2 children living here soon, and the leaded tub is a custom color that is actually sought after by some people. Lead or not, apparently someone is going to love this poor tub.

    Anyway, I understand that the “ban” on lead glazing in bathtubs is voluntary. Do you know of any sources of information that show which manufacturers and models of porcelain-glazed tubs are lead-free? Does, say, California or Vermont maintain a list of lead-free tub makers? Are you able to share make and model information about the lead free tubs you’ve tested?

    Thanks so much for all your work!

  2. Sue November 7, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

    Yes, this is real. Lead in those beautiful old claw foot tubs. As a pregnant soon to be mom, my husband and I had our older home tested for lead… But not the tub. Who knew ? When our daughter turned one and had recommended bloodwork, we were blown away at the results. Levels 9.9. We tested the house, asked our health department for help. The source was not identified by anyone. Frustrated and desparate to find the source, we tested almost every foot of our home. The only spot in the house that tested positive was the tub.
    We moved out and the bathroom was remodeled.

Leave a Reply

Designed by Clever Kiwi Web Design