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  QUESTION: Lead sheeting on roof and lead in varnish, 10 May 2005, Germany 

I have got two questions concerning lead:

  1. Does lead sheeting on the roof around the windows emit lead (dust?) in a way that it can be harmful during a pregnancy?
  2. Is it safe to keep dishes in a 70-year-old kitchen cupboard if the cupboard has still got its original varnish (which might contain lead?)? The varnish seems to be okay, it does not flake.

Thank you very much!

Yours, Uta

ANSWER: 10 May 2005

Dear Uta,
Thank you for your enquiry and interest in our work. To answer your questions regarding lead in your home, there are a number methods you could use to ensuring you and your family are safe of lead.

1. With regards to the lead sheeting on the roof, you would need to identify a pathway from the lead to you. This could be via dust or water. We have not heard of lead sheeting emitting dust but it could still be a possibility, depending on accessibility to the place the dust would fall. If you are concerned about this, I would advise you to do a dust wipe test, where you would take a wipe of the dust where it has fallen and send it to an analysis laboratory, which can identify the dust as lead. If you contact a lab that can do this, they will tell you their preferred procedure. Unfortunately, we do not have a list of labs in Germany.

The most possible pathway of the lead to you would be through water runoff from your roof. If the water comes into contact with the lead sheeting and this water is collected for drinking, then it is highly advisable for you to do a lead blood test, to determine the amount of lead in your blood. The lead blood test can be done at a hospital or doctors clinic which can test for lead in blood.

If the water comes into contact with the lead sheeting and flows into the ground and if you ingest the soil, you will also need to do a blood lead test. If there is no identified pathway from the lead to you, then you are not at risk.
With regards to a pregnant woman, if she has lead in her blood, it is passed freely to her unborn child and can cause developmental problems. See our fact sheet
Pregnant or planning a pregnancy?

2. To answer your question on the kitchen cupboard, if the varnish is not flaking, then it would not pose a risk. Varnish could contain lead, especially if it is red in colour (lead pigment). If it is in the sun, the varnish can form "chalk", which is a form of dust. However, we do recommend that you send a sample of the varnish to an analysis lab to identify whether there is lead in the varnish, if you are concerned about it.

On the whole, if you feel that you have been living in a place where lead poisoning could be a threat to you, we would highly recommend that you and your family get a blood lead test done. This would tell you instantly the level of lead you are living with, and would probably put your mind at ease.

We hope that this information helps.

Elisa Idris
Volunteer Information Officer

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Last Updated 23 May 2012
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