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Request for Toy Lead Test Instructable Answered

There are constant reports of high lead levels in many toys, as well as new findings that lead is an even more dangerous neurotoxin than previously believed. Does anyone have the chemical background to devise a simple home test for lead levels in toys? My thoughts are that a number of toys would be place in a bathtub, and a leeching agent would be added which would dissolve some of any lead present. The dilute solution in the tub would then be tested by a standard home water supply lead test. This could possibly be a great service... Thanks!


I have to agree that a tubful of leached lead will probably be more dangerous than the lead paint ever was. And personally, I think that the world got on fine when there was lead in household paint and all that. Not that it was a good thing, but don't lick the wall and you'll be fine. But I do love a challenge, and if you don't want to use a lead paint test from the hardware store, I suppose it could be done.

But since the lead concern is in the paint, a paint test seems more appropriate than a water test. For example, my home's plumbing has more lead in solder in the plumbing than even a tubful of very contaminated toys would have, but still tests "safe" with a home water lead test. It takes time to leach. Plus, I have very hard water, which means less can dissolve in it. That would throw off the accuracy of you water test. The water has to have been sitting for a very long time in order to leach an amount that worries me, and that is fixed by a short flush of the pipes by turning on everything, say, after a vacation. Also, the legal limit for water is not the same as for paint. So you might get false positives or false negatives.

Are you proposing doing this test on toys for your kids? 'Cause if so, just don't let 'em chew on the toys... or varnish the Tonka truck before giving it to him. As long as you use a clear, waterproof varnish, it'll stay on there and keep all the evil lead in.

My old house had lead pipes from the mains in to the house then copper, no bother, tested fine, I suspect that in alot of plastics the lead is well fixed...

A short length of regularly-use lead pipe is fine because the lead doesn't have time to build up in the pipe - flushing the toilet first thing in the morning will get rid of all the lead-contamination that built up overnight. It's when the pipes aren't used very often, or the water stays in them for a significant length of time (such as a lead-lined tank), that the problems start. Initial doses will have no obvious effects as the neurotoxicity is cumulative - children living on heavily-trafficked roads used to have statistically-significantly lower IQs than children living just a few yards off the main road.

Ah, yes, good old leaded gas. I'd like to know who looked at that and thought it was a good idea...

Haha, I lived on a main road in a house with lead pipes for ten years, then it became half and half pipes when my dad was doing some work on th house and found out about the leadiness...

Yet somehow I have a high I.Q. and reasonably functional nervous systems... Apart from the damned trapped nerve in my arm - Pullups help keep it right but every now and again...


9 years ago

I wonder how much (lead)/paint I ingested when I was a kid, and all the chewing on pencil leads, drinking pen ink... chewing metal toys (probably made out of lead too) xD


10 years ago

an old tech way to testing for lead was to put your tounge on it (not very safe). If there was a sweetness to it then it contains lead.

I'd be more inclined to go to your local hardware store and purchase a "lead testing" kit... Designed for house paint's, but should detect harmful level's if present... ;)


10 years ago

First I'd like to see some quantitative tests on how much lead is IN these contaminated toys - do they really contain significant lead, or are they just violating the letter of the law (we have laws that forbid "any detectable amount" of some supposed poisons, and modern test methods make that a very tiny percentage indeed...) There's also the possibility that a rub full of leached-out lead solution is a lot more dangerous to everyone concerned (AND the environment) than the lead-containing paint was in the first place. In the paint, you probably have a bit of pigment in insoluble form that will someday end up in a landfill. Leach it out in a tub and you have the lead in soluble form that will make its way directly to the common environment (oceans, rivers, other places where there is life you'd like to protect. Whereas the landfill is so "sealed" that even "biodegradables" don't decompose...)