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Warning: Lead in *NEW* Tile!

For Paige:

1. There is lead in new tile.

2. Lead in tile is NOT regulated.

3. Any lead present in the tile may or may not be bio-available on the surface of the tile (mentioned in case you have concerns for exposure to your food from tile food-prep surfaces) but it can still be toxic/constitute a future potential health hazard.

4. Please note: Although LeadCheck® test swabs are formulated for testing paint—and as such are not generally useful for testing non-painted surfaces, SOME tile MAY test positive with a LeadCheck swab—in which case I would DEFINITELY NOT use that tile at all (let alone for a kitchen / food-prep surface)!

5. Most Important: I would only trust an appropriate,* properly calibrated X-Ray Flourescence spectrometer (“XRF”) to determine whether or not tile has a potentially hazardous amount of lead (e.g. a “negative’ LeadCheck swab test in the case of tile (or any ceramic item for that matter) should NOT be considered a true negative.)

*[NOT a (relatively) inexpensive, HUD/”pass/fail” paint-testing-only model, but a multi-purpose higher-end model test instrument that is designed/set up to test consumer goods and to read out in parts per million (“PPM”).

“Can-of-worms alert”: HUD/”pass/fail” type paint-mode-only XRF instruments will read (incorrectly) asnegativeif they come in below the high threshold of 1 milligram per centimeter squared, a reading which can translate to as high as 5,000 ppm lead – depending on the settings/software/capabilities of the instrument.]

If there is lead in tile (regardless of whether or not it tests positive with a swab test) the biggest concern is from demolition or breaking or cutting into the tile. These activities can release EXTREME amounts of toxic lead-contaminated microdust into your environment.

Tile demolition should be done ONLY with the home vacated and proper lead-safety containment [in the absence of testing, be safe and handle it as if it DOES contain lead].

Tile installation that might involve cutting must also be done with proper containment—even though that is not legally regulated in any way, in terms of the potential hazards created for the consumer.  [If tile cutting is done without worker protections the potential recourse you may have is that it could be considered an OSHA violation, but other than that a contractor cannot be fined for contaminating your HOME with lead dust from cutting new tile for your new bathroom! Repeat: it is not regulated  – so there is no “violation in progress” under current legislation.]

Best bests:

  1. Avoid man-made /ceramic tile as a material choice in a child’s home unless you can do XRF testing to confirm lead content is zero
  2. If you have chosen NEW tile and it needs to be cut for your space – test it before beginning work (if at all possible) and ask your contractor to ensure full containment of any and all lead dust before any cutting begins. Even wet cutting, if not properly contained, will create dust everywhere once the wet debris dries up.
  3. Avoid tile demolition.
  4. If tile demolition cannot be avoided  – vacate the home and protect all contents from any possible dust exposure before demolition begins.
  5. With removal or installation get a dust-wipe clearance test to ensure the home is safe before returning to the home, especially if children are involved.

If your installed tile tests positive: don’t use that area, cover with another surface if possible, or replace using lead-safe work practices.

If you cannot afford to replace safely:

  1. Never place food directly on counters (especially acidic food – like tomatoes)
  2. always use plates on counters
  3. get cutting boards to cover most or all surfaces
  4. make sure to use “spoon rests” for when you are cooking – so you don’t inadvertently place a mixing spoon with acidic soup (for example) on your tile counter and then stick it back in the pot.
New tile: 368,400 ppm lead

New tile: 368,400 ppm lead

Here is a relatively recent article about a study done in the State of Washington that found lead in many new tile samples being sold in stores (Paige—the link to that will be posted soon, I’m still looking around for that article!)

Other articles of interest:

  2.  “Assume that existing ceramic tile and any new imported ceramic tile contains lead unless you verify that it does not.”
  6. more to be posted soon… if you have a relevant article, please share in the comments below.  Thank you!

One Response to Warning: Lead in *NEW* Tile!

  1. Ramona Jensen June 2, 2015 at 5:27 am #

    Really helpful information Tamara. Thanks for posting it.

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