A Toxic Soother? Lead in Brass Keys

How many people jingle keys to soothe a fussy infant? I mean, how easy is it to grab your keys if your baby starts to fuss in line at the grocery store.

But those brass keys may have lead present. That’s right, keys can potentially have toxic lead present.

In fact, in a lawsuit under California’s Proposition 65, testing was done to determine if there was enough lead in brass keys to result in an exposure to lead to require a warning.  If you aren’t familiar with it, California’s Proposition 65 law requires warnings to consumers before exposing them to certain substances, including lead. Lead is added to brass to make it easier to machine, and there were claims that brass household keys could have lead present in them resulting in exposures such that Proposition 65 warnings would be required.

In 1999, the California Attorney General filed a complaint against 13 manufacturers of brass keys and lock sets, alleging that the products exposed individuals to lead and the manufacturers were selling them without the necessary warnings. To see if exposure to lead was actually happening, laboratory testing was conducted. The laboratory tests showed that handling brass keys could result in exposure to lead.  The highest test results showed exposure at 80 times the Proposition 65 so-called safe level of 0.5 micrograms per day, while the lowest was still above that safe level.  As a result, in California, brass keys must carry a Proposition 65 warning if they contain more than 1.5% lead.

I don’t know about the lead level in brass keys sold in other states.  A concerned parent in an article indicated a higher level than 1.5%.  But even the 1.5% is too much for me – it is significantly above the lead level allowed in paint (0.06%).  Of course, I recognize the medium is different.  Yet, with the news about no lead level being safe for children. I didn’t want my children to get in the habit of chewing on keys. 

What can you do?  Don’t let you children play with your keys.  Don’t forget to remind other caregivers as well.  My mom, despite lots of warnings, still doesn’t hesitate to jingle keys to calm my daughter . . . just too ingrained.  Make sure you wash your hands after handling your keys and digging in your purse – there’s enough lead dust in there to be a significant exposure if you let your keys rattle around loose.  This is especially important if you are pregnant or nursing.  You might want to think about keeping your keys in a designated pocket.  The plastic key covers are supposed to help reduce exposure, but I don’t know how much.

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  1. […] give infants brass keys to soothe them. Brass can have lead added, and infants can be exposed as they mouth brass […]

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