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Lead Hazards In Ceramic Tile

I have been finding extremely high lead concentrations in ceramic tile, my latest find clocking in at 25 times above the level set by Orange County. I got a reading of 23 micrograms per square centimeter in white ceramic tile kitchen countertop in a 1975 built home. The tile used in the bathrooms and shower came it around 5-6 micrograms per square centimeter. These high concentrations have been common in homes with ceramic tile in kitchen countertops as well as bathroom countertops and showers. If there is ceramic tile on the floor, it can also be a hazard.

One of the safety concerns comes from handling or preparing food on this lead contaminated tile. Placing meat, vegetables or any other food directly onto the tile can expose it to lead, just as if food were left in lead based crystal containers or glassware, or leaded ceramics. Such high concentrations make it that much more of a potential threat.

Another safety concern is if the tile becomes chipped or damaged. If a tile chips or cracks it will put lead dust into the air and contaminate other rooms and items in the home. Properly repairing and sealing broken tile is required to keep your family safe, and should be done quickly to minimize the exposure of lead dust. When remodeling, you must follow lead safe work practices or hire a contractor who does. Improper removal of lead contaminated surfaces such as tile poses a serious health risk to you, your family and your pets.

Exposing lead contaminated dust from improper removal of tile or other lead contaminated surfaces can contaminate any surface or item in the home. Ripping out a bathroom floor may spread contaminated lead dust onto toothbrushes or a basket of bath toys for the kid. Removing a tile countertop in the kitchen may spread lead contaminated dust onto dishes, glassware, silverware or fruit in the fruit bowl. Lead dust can then easily be ingested and inhaled, leading to higher blood levels of lead and the potential for lead poisoning.

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California Dept. of Public Health