Tamara Rubin is more than just a “Lead Safe Mama”. She is an environmental activist, documentary filmmaker, and a mother like so many of us. Her children were poisoned in their own home by a contractor who did not follow the EPA’s Guide to Lead Safe Work Practices. Since then, Tamara began speaking out and has become an advocate for childhood lead poisoning prevention. Her advocacy work has been nationally and internationally recognized by numerous media outlets including CNN, NBC, ABC, CBS, The New York Times, and many others. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including two from the federal government during the National Healthy Homes Conferences in both 2011 and 2014. Tamara Rubin is the real deal – a true advocate for lead prevention.
I know what you might be thinking…
“My kid isn’t going to eat lead paint chips.”
“I live in a brand new home with no concerns for old lead paint.”
“I clean my house religiously, so there is zero chance of lead dust.”
Well, unfortunately, lead is much more common than we all may think. And it isn’t just paint chips that you have to worry about. Lead in small amounts, created by dust or fumes you cannot see, is enough to poison a child.
The legal allowable amount of lead in children’s toys is 90 ppm (parts per million) although many people believe this should be lower. Surprisingly, plates, cups, and other household items all can contain toxic amounts of lead that cause irreversible brain damage, health impairments, memory loss, and so much more.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “There is no known ‘safe’ blood lead concentration; As lead exposure increases, the range and severity of symptoms and effects also increases.” So then, why is it legal for a plate to contain 20,000 ppm of lead?
As a part of Tamara’s advocacy work, she recently embarked on a cross-country ‘tour’, visiting families who wanted to learn more about lead in consumer goods and even toys (gasp!). I met Tamara back in 2019, at a ‘lead testing party’, and again this August, when she tested items in my home with a Niton XRF Device (in consumer goods mode).
This device tests for lead, cadmium, and antimony, in addition to other heavy metals like mercury and arsenic. Cadmium is a known carcinogen and antimony causes cancer in rats and although not enough studies have been done on humans, it is a suspected carcinogen.
Here are the results of my testing:
We were gifted this set in 2015 at our Bridal Shower. Lead shouldn’t be present in anything you use with food, and this amount is especially alarming. I actually contacted Bed, Bath and Beyond and they refunded me for the item.
18,000 ppm of lead in the support posts and over 1,000 ppm of lead in the chain. Galvanized steel is notoriously leaded. We did paint the fence which acts as a bandaid for now, but, I cannot wait until we nix the fence next year!
My mom loved these plates… 20,900 ppm of lead. Stacking plates with this amount of lead can create lead dust that can contaminate your food and cause irreversible damage.
This bathroom tray tested lead-free, but contained 171 Barium (the limit of Barium allowed in drinking water is 2 ppm).
This bell was my late grandma’s and my daughter has always wanted to play with it. Nope! 400,000 ppm is creating dust as it sits on the shelf and can poison a child. I returned this to my parents since it was meaningful to them.
Tamara tested the old, original 1950’s trim in our kitchen. It tested as 292 ppm of lead over the new white coat of paint. In a place where the paint was chipped, the XRF device showed 786 ppm.
This gutter was tested in two areas: one where painted was chipped a bit (216 ppm) and another area where it wasn’t chipped (189 ppm). Tamara said to keep an eye on it and make sure the paint doesn’t chip further.
Our original 1950’s kitchen cabinets had 4,682 ppm on the bare wood and 1,500 ppm on the painted surface. This is not a safe level to have in the kitchen, especially if the paint is chipping or if the cabinet doors rub. Check back for my post on these cabinets and my mini “lead SAFER” remodel (which will suffice until we can gut the kitchen next year!)
800 ppm of lead in these baseboards. We tested several and I’d say 800 ppm of lead seems to be the average for the baseboards. All of the baseboards tested were original to the home. The new baseboards did not contain any lead.
It’s hard to find a lead-free mug so usually I stick with the clear glass ones, which have become my favorite! But, I had Tamara test this Baum mug and plate from Bed, Bath, and Beyond circa 2015 and surprisingly they were both lead-free!
2020 White Corelle Plate was lead-free as expected. Corelle said to use their vintage plates prior to 2000 as decorative pieces due to lead contamination.
We always use these forks and spoons in our home, so I wanted to test them just to be sure! They are made from 18/10 stainless steel and are lead-free as expected. Purchased in 2015 from Bed, Bath, and Beyond.
New ceramic bathroom wall tile made by Florida Tile was also lead-free!
Tamara tested our Baldwin front door knobs from the Home Depot (stock image pictured). The interior knobs had lower lead levels while the exterior handle had extremely high levels. Tamara said the more expensive an item is, the more likely it is to have lead. Unfortunately, I don’t have the exact number noted, but I believe it was in the 800s for the exterior and 200 for the interior.
GoSili Silicone Straw was lead-free! Cadmium was not at a level for concern either. Win, win!
Prior to my knowledge about flooring and vinyl, we used this to replace old flooring in a corner of our home. I still don’t like that it is vinyl, but at least it is lead-free!
Melissa and Doug did have a lead recall in the mid-2000s, and I was curious about their scratch art book, but I was happy to learn it tested lead-free.
Meters are notorious for being high in lead. Ours was recently replaced and tested lead-free.
Libbey glass cup tested lead-free.
I really liked this planter and recently purchased it, so when I saw the amount of lead (487 ppm) it contained, I was a bitttt upset! Needless to say this planter is no longer on our kitchen table. I did end up keeping it, but I am sure to keep the area clean and out of reach of my little one.
2,570 ppm lead and 1,300 antimony. Both are toxic although studies for antimony have only been done on rats. It is a known carcinogen. This amount of lead is way too high to be used in a dinner plate!
This Mikasa plate had low lead (60 ppm) on the food surface, but high lead (2,600) on the logo. Tamara said, it is probably OK for occasional use.
Vintage LED Christmas Tree from 1970s? 93,000 ppm of lead! I loved this thing, but unfortunately I had to get rid of it especially since my daughter was drawn to it. Children should absolutely not be playing with anything that has lead levels this high!
My daughter’s stainless and silicone Pura Kiki uninsulated water bottle tested lead-free! This is a great non-toxic choice for your little one and it holds up great!
This was my husband’s late grandmother’s. It has an iridescent finish and contains 82,000 ppm of lead. Given that this is a meaningful piece to my husband, we keep this angel in a ziplock bag, out of my daughter’s sight. 82,000 ppm is nothing to play with!
To everyone’s surprise, this crystal duck was lead-free… until Tamara tested the eyeball. The crystal eyeball contained 3,256 ppm of lead! Worst of all, one of the eyes was missing so that means it could have been picked up and put in the mouth of my daughter! Luckily, we know it was missing prior to us living in our home, but still! Things like this do happen!
This Hammock Stand purchased from Amazon in 2018, tested lead-free. It is made from a powder coated steel (although I am not sure what kind of steel).
This Hersey’s Candy Jar contains 2,300 ppm of lead. Even though the candy inside would be wrapped, I wasn’t willing to risk it and definitely didn’t want my kiddo touching it!
This planter was purchased in the summer of 2020 from the Home Depot. It contains 487 ppm of lead. Since it is new and wasn’t chipping, Tamara said it is probably OK, although she wouldn’t want it around her children’s toys or in her home. Later, upon further inspection, I noticed it actually IS chipping now so I threw it away!
B. Smith Pasta Bowl purchased from our registry in 2015 from Bed, Bath, and Beyond was lead-free!
One of our interior walls leading towards the garage tested positive at 1,356 ppm. This was an original-to-the-1950’s-home plaster wall with several coats of paint on it. The most recent coat (painted by use) was most likely lead-free. It’s what is under our coat of paint, that is not!
As expected, this Libbey mug tested lead-free (and is one of my favorite recent purchases! LOL)
New ceramic bathroom tile from Florida Tile circa 2017 was lead free! (THANK GOD!)
My daughter loves (and I mean LOVES) “Lena the Ballerina” made by Haba so naturally I was happy to hear when it tested lead-free!
Surprisingly, this original 1950’s vent cover, was completely lead free. I actually even had her test several other vents to confirm. All were lead-free. According to Tamara, many vents contain lead.
Not all American Girl dolls test lead-free, but my childhood Samantha doll did. She was originally purchased around 1995. give or take a few years. Stock image for reference.
My daughter’s railing to her Backyard Adventure playset tested lead-free!
Our fire pit has seen better days (Ha!), but it was 100% lead-free!
YIKES!! 80,000 ppm of lead in the green portion of this vintage Pyrex bowl and 500 ppm in the white portion!! The worst part: the paint is chipping! This amount of lead, plus the chipping means this bowl is now living in the garbage can!
Leaded crystal is a big problem because when something like wine or whiskey sits in a glass with such high amounts of lead (like this glass containing 401,000 ppm), the lead leaches from the glass extremely quickly.
This B. Smith Bowl from Bed, Bath, and Beyond tested positive with 54 ppm of lead on the inside and 78 ppm on the logo (bottom). Within legal limits, just don’t use acidic foods in it!
This had to go! 5,100 ppm of lead and I had 4 of these for our kitchen! The good news is, I found cute glass and wooden ones from Ikea that I like so much better!
I was shocked at the amount of lead found in the spindles of our staircase – 4,675 ppm! Luckily, the carpet runner was lead free. The reasoning for testing the runner would be to determine if high lead dust was being tracked throughout.
My mom loves this cup so I had to have it tested! And it contained over 9,000 ppm of lead plus antimony! Recycled glass often can contain lead. P.S. I am so glad that I never let my daughter drink from this!
Ahh… our original fireplace mantle… 1,300 ppm of lead although it is possible it contains more due to the fresh coat of paint “diluting’ the reading. With that being said, our fireplace tools tested lead-free.
While we did replace all of the original 1950s windows in our home, the baseboards (1000 ppm) and window sills (219 ppm) have not been replaced yet. Note: Our original leaded windows rubbed constantly, creating invisible lead dust and paint chips every time we opened them. This is a big concern, especially for families with kids.
Surprisingly, the outdoor table tile was leaded with 435 ppm in either the finish or the tile itself. As long as the pieces stay in tact, and food isn’t directly touching the surface it should be OK, given that it is used outdoors and regularly cleaned with soap and water.
Our 2017 Kohler Tub tested lead-free. Previously we had a vintage tub coated with enamel that tested positive for lead with a 3M lead test swab.
These closet doors were the only original doors we left when we replaced all of our original interior doors. In hindsight, I have no idea why we didn’t just replace these too, but the good news is, they aren’t leaded!
Paint is often the culprit when it comes to lead on consumer goods so I was a little surprised when this glass flamingo wine glass was lead-free! Yay! I purchased it from Home Goods a few years back.
I don’t know what it is about flamingos (or clearly my obsession with them? HA!), but all of the ones I have are lead-free! This little guy was purchased in the 2018/2019 summer.
My parent’s vintage stainless steel fork tested lead-free! They received this as a wedding gift.
This metal wall art from Home Goods wasn’t even on my list of things to test, but we tested it anyways, and surprisingly it was lead-free!
This cute toy cake from Tender Leaf Toys tested lead-free! Tender Leaf, like Plan Toys, uses rubberwood to make all of their toys.
OXO is notorious for having inconsistent results in terms of being lead free or not, according to Tamara. This muddler purchased in 2015 was lead-free, but did contain cadmium which you really don’t want in your food.
Defiant Doorknob in Brushed Nickel was lead-free.
This chair came as part of a patio set purchased in 2016. It was lead-free!
This marble serving tray is lead-free!
If you’re interested in learning more about lead prevention, Tamara is truly a wealth of knowledge. I highly suggest following Tamara on Facebook and/or joining her Facebook group. You will be surprised at what you will learn! Also, be sure to check out Tamara’s Documentary, “MisLead: America’s Secret Epidemic”.
Thanks for reading! And thank you to Tamara Rubin, Lead Safe Mama!
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