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?