There have been hundreds of stories over the years of children falling ill with lead poisoning as a result of an old, unfinished bathtub. Throughout the decades of conversation, rarely still, do people consider their bathtub as a source of the issue.
Homeowners will often replace old walls for fear of lead paint and replace old pipes to remove the lead, but no one considers that until around 1984, most bathtubs contained small to moderate amounts of the dangerous heavy metal.
In the 1960’s there was an episode of Good Morning America that discussed for the first time on television, the dangers of lead poisoning from a bathtub.
The story was broadcast from Massachusetts, where a routine blood test on a child had shown high levels of lead in their blood. The family immediately underwent a de-leading procedure in the house, which was designed to inspect and remove all points of exposure from their home. The cost of the process was $15,000.
After passing a rigid state inspection, it was determined that they met compliance standards and the matter was considered resolved.
A week later, their child underwent another blood test and it was determined the level of lead in his blood had more than doubled. Concerned for his well being, and confused by his seeming continued exposure to the heavy metal, the family resorted to lead testing stips, using them to test every surface that their child was in contact with.
When they came upon their bathtub, they were shocked to find that it was likely the source of their child’s failing health. Dr. John Graf, who was in charge of the child’s care, was dumbfounded when the family communicated to him the source of the lead poisoning. During the interview, he stated, “You could have knocked me over with a feather, I was unaware of this hazard coming from a bathtub.”
The family’s story spawned the investigation by Good Morning America, which brought to viewers’ attention the dangers of heavy metal poisoning from their bathtubs. During an interview with a bathroom refinisher, a survey was revealed which found that 79% of all cast iron tubs and 27% of all steel tubs were leaching lead before they were reglazed.
While bathrooms and new tubs have come a long way since that episode was aired, there’s still a lack of general knowledge around the presence of lead in bathtubs. So in short, even in today’s world, older bathtubs can still hide levels of lead that are incredibly dangerous to your children. If your bathtub was made before 1984, or if you’re not sure and your current tub is showing signs of wear, consider professional reglazing which will seal your bathtub and prevent it from leaching lead into your children’s bathwater.