Since I don’t suck on it, I don’t care

biker chick sucking on a leather gloveWhen it comes to lead, I get that a lot. Really. I get comments all the time along the lines of, “Well, I’m not going to suck on it, so who cares?” Or, when it comes to lead in paint, “My kids don’t lick the walls, so it isn’t relevant.”

After my segments on Fox & Friends and Fox & Friends After Show Show, I got quite a few comments that it doesn’t matter if there is lead in the purse if the purse isn’t sucked on. There was also an extensive discussion on an eBay board about it.

I understand that there are a lot of risks in the world. The media bombards us daily with the latest health scare. It is hard to sort out what to worry about and what to ignore. And I get that there are more pressing concerns than lead in vinyl or lead in paint.

And we’ve also come a long way when it comes to lead. We’ve phased it out of paints used in the home. We’ve eliminated it as a fuel additive. At the same time, however, we are finding that levels once believed to be safe aren’t. About 290,000 children in the US have ADHD because of exposure to trace amounts of lead. And, as Dr. Greene explains, a number of recent studies have linked childhood exposure to lead to the surge in Alzheimer’s disease that we are seeing today (my rebuttal to those that say that they got exposed to lead when they were young and are just fine, thank you).

Lead is a potent neurotoxin, and kids are more at risk. Part of the reason kids are more at risk is because of the type of behavior they engage in. Part of it is that they absorb 50% of the lead that they ingest, whereas adults only absorb about 11% of the lead that they ingest.

So, tell me you don’t care about lead in vinyl because you’ve got a lot of other stuff to worry about or you don’t think the risk is that big. That’s fine. But don’t tell me you don’t care because you don’t suck on it. That just tells me you don’t understand the issue.

When it comes to lead in vinyl, lead migrates to the surface. Lead doesn’t like being in the plastic matrix so it moves out of it and comes to the surface. That process occurs more rapidly with exposure to friction and light/heat. Also as the product ages. Once the lead moves to the surface, it is transferred to hands upon handling, and from there can be ingested. Take, for example, lead in vinyl purses. If you handle your purse and your purse has lead, then the lead will be on your hands. If you touch your mouth, then you may well ingest some. Say you get in your car and grab some fries. You probably handled your purse before you got in the car, and as you were getting your money out. Don’t tell me you are going to wash your hands before you eat those fries. And the lead dust that transfers.

Or you handle your purse and then hold your child’s hand. And your child sticks her hands in her mouth. Or eats an apple without washing her hands. Or you handle your vinyl diaper bag and then offer your baby a bottle. All of those situations can result in┬álead transfer.

Don’t believe that lead comes out of vinyl? Well, the Center for Environmental Health did wipe tests of the purses it found lead in, and found enough coming off with the wipe tests to be of concern. And, the Consumer Product Safety Commission acted years ago to take vinyl blinds off the market because of the high levels of lead dust generated and collecting around the blinds.

When it comes to lead in paint, you do not have to lick the walls. Microscopic lead dust is generated around the home, particularly at friction surfaces, or where painted surfaces rub together. Your door jambs, your windows, your built in cabinets. Plus, we get lead dust blown into our homes from weathering of other buildings and we track in lead contaminated dust.

And the thing is, lead exposure is additive. We already get some in our diets. We also get some in our water from the pipes and fittings. We may get some at home – more if our home was built before 1978. Add in the exposure to lead in vinyl products, and your child’s exposure may be enough to shave off IQ points. Is it really worth that vinyl purse?

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  1. Teena Price says:

    Jennifer – I just want to say a heartfelt THANK YOU for your message above! I hear the ‘well such and such likely had exposure to lead as a child and they are fine’ comment ALL the time – it drives me nuts!

  2. My kids may not lick the walls but they touch them and they sure do lick their hands. I used to do daycare and it still shocks me how unconcerned some parents are about lead. Great post!

  3. Thank you for getting this message out! I was [sort of] the same way; you see there’s a stroller the Mountain Buggy Double Jungle that I had heard was not allowed to be sold in the US because they found lead in the hubcaps. In my limited knowledge, I thought ‘hey, my kid doesn’t lick stroller hubcaps, who cares if I bought it.’ A week later -as he became more proficient in crawling/cruising- by baby did just that to our current stroller– HE LICKED THE WHEELS AND HUBS! I was horrified. Horrified at myself for being so narrow-minded and thinking it wouldn’t affect me!
    I am SOOOOO thankful you’re spreading the word on lead in the world around us and expanding our minds enough so we can see that we all track lead dust around, even if we don’t think so.


  4. I have been looking for a home lead testing kit. I read about several online but then also read reviews that said the results are unreliable. Do you have one that you recommend? Thanks.

  5. Jennifer–thanks for this! So it just hit me that my Fleurville diaper bag, which I love, is made with vinyl on the outside. I’m currently using it for my second child and it’s a great bag! Since it’s vinyl, does that mean for sure that lead is leaching out of it? The website simply says that the company uses no PVC.

  6. Some of us are old enough to remember when toothpaste came in lead tubes. It crimped well, but we put that stuff in our mouths two or three times a day, every day for years. It is likely that we dropped several IQ points as a result. Now we can top it all off with Alzheimer’s. Thank you, Jennifer. Keep up the good work!


  1. […] salts are usually used to stabilize vinyl. Lead is often used. It doesn’t matter if you don’t suck on your fake leather (vinyl) purse – handling it can result in transfer from your hands to your mouth, or from your hands to […]

  2. […] for children under the age of 12, they may have lead in them. Now, before you tell me your kids won’t lick the wall decals, keep in mind that lead in a vinyl doesn’t like being in the matrix and will migrate to the […]

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