For a beautiful shine, many tiles still contain lead-containing glazes, in fact, more than 70% of ceramics contain lead according to some data analyzed. If these glazes are damaged by scratches, lead dust can get into the air.
Cutting when laying and removing such coverings also releases lead. The dust can irritate the respiratory tract. Therefore you should only work with suitable respiratory protection. When buying tiles, it is advisable to choose models with a lead-free glaze.
It is already well known that lead is a heavy metal that has harmful health effects, especially in infants and young children.
Tiles are just the thing for durable, moisture-insensitive and easy-to-care-for surfaces in bathrooms and toilets.
The extraction of the mineral raw materials is, however, often associated with the destruction of the landscape and a lot of energy is consumed in the manufacturing process. In addition, there can be other critical points, especially with older products.
Just like the underground rock or the soil, every building material contains traces of natural radioactive substances, in particular uranium-238, thorium-232 and their decay products as well as potassium-40.
Lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system in young children.
Why does leaded tile exist and what alternatives are there?
Many tiles are offered unglazed and possibly polished. Lead-containing glazes are used because they give the surface a particularly beautiful sheen. High-temperature glazes, including stoneware glazes, can be produced without lead.
There are also modern, so-called lead-free glazes, in which the bioavailable lead content is below 0.5% even before the fire and should not pose a health risk to humans in the event of oral or inhalation ingestion.
Such transparent glazes are harmless, but high-temperature glazes are clouded or colored with, among other things, metal oxides, i.e. heavy metals.
Among the 3 main reasons for the presence of lead in ceramics we have:
The alternatives are to use alternative coatings such as micro cement, brick, stainless steel, wood, murals.
Or, alternatively, make sure to purchase very good quality tiles.
Is tile paint or glaze toxic?
ceramic tile, glaze and glass paints almost all contain some toxic component, but it is impossible to generalize.
Some paints or glaze for high-quality ceramic tiles are also environmentally friendly (non-toxic), and their price is very high.
As industrial production, ceramic tile manufacturers will never use environmentally friendly pigments.
Sanitary requirements are not as stringent because, in general, the toxic components in ceramics are minimal, and are not in direct contact with human skin or cavities.
Common ceramic tile pigments contain heavy metal elements such as lead and cadmium, which can adhere to ceramic glass through high-temperature sintering and cannot be removed.
Although lead-containing materials have been phased out for decades for use in home interiors, lead in ceramics is still used today.
This is because lead in ceramics is not as easily transferred directly as, for example, lead in paint.
There are some commercial brands of ceramics that do not contain lead in their composition.
In my opinion, glazed ceramics are much more likely to contain lead than unglazed ceramics, although this is not a rule.
The thing is that glazed ceramics usually also contain colorants to give it different appearances, this type of ceramic is widely used in bathrooms.
Lead and chromium are two heavy metals commonly used in ceramic glazes that are closely monitored by environmental agencies due to their toxicity and capacity for bioaccumulation.
Time of highest lead exposure in tiles
In residential ceramics, exposure to lead may not be as direct, but special care should be taken when performing certain activities.
For example, when remodeling or cutting ceramics, especially if they are very old ceramics that may contain lead in their composition.
If tiles are removed when renovating apartments, a lot of dust is created, especially when removing the grouting and laying material.
For reasons of precautionary health protection, such work should only be carried out with suitable respiratory protection in order to avoid irritation and diseases of the respiratory tract.
Where to find lead-free ceramics
Generally, lead-free ceramics can be found in large stores that carry well-known brands of ceramics. It is very important to check prices, as lead-free ceramics are significantly more expensive.
Small ceramic manufacturers that offer ceramics at economical prices will always have leaded ceramics.
A lead-free tile includes more expensive manufacturing mechanisms and therefore the tile will be more expensive. To be sure, ask the store directly if the tile has a study that certifies that the tile is lead-free.
What other household items may contain lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring heavy metal that is widespread in the environment, not least through industrial processes. It is one of the strong environmental toxins and accumulates in the organism.
Lead can be found as an additive in numerous products such as batteries, some paints, glazes and cosmetics. With the usual use of ceramic objects, it cannot be assumed that the maximum possible amounts of lead will be consumed daily or even for life.
Lead may be present in some household bathtubs, most commonly in porcelain-lined bathtubs which have a cast iron construction.
The older the bathtub, the more likely it is to contain porcelain and therefore lead, due to erosion of the material over time.
The water in the bathtub could be contaminated with lead due to cracks.
Another household appliance that may contain lead is sinks made of porcelain.
This can be in both some bathroom sinks and kitchen sinks.
Some brass items such as kitchen and cabinet pulls, as well as some door handles, may contain lead.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning manifests itself in the form of vomiting, intestinal colic, constipation and even kidney failure. Children are particularly at risk because the body is even more sensitive to lead in the developmental stage.
For them, increased lead exposure can cause irreversible nerve damage and even impairment of brain functions. Chronic poisoning is accompanied by a feeling of weakness, loss of appetite, nervousness or emaciation.
Like lead, cadmium is a heavy metal that occurs widely in small quantities. Cadmium and its compounds in the form of dusts and aerosols are classified as carcinogenic substances.
In addition to batteries, the metal is mainly used in color pigments and in the manufacture of plastics.
Cadmium also accumulates in the body via the food chain, where it is concentrated in the liver and kidneys. Cadmium once absorbed by the body is only excreted very slowly.
Cadmium poisoning manifests itself first in the form of diarrhea and vomiting. They can lead to liver and heart damage, kidney and circulatory failure.
With low doses that act on humans over a longer period of time, symptoms such as fatigue, headaches and neurological disorders tend to be unspecific.