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QUESTION: How much of a danger does handling leaded PVC electrical appliance cords present? 11/05/09   California, USA - United States of America

A few days ago, I sent you a question about the danger of lead contamination from pvc-coated appliance cords.

Shortly thereafter, I received a very comprehensive reply from you, I believe the author was Elizabeth O'Brien. Unfortunately, the email got deleted by accident. Because of this, I am writing to you using the web form again.

First, I would like to thank you very much for your quick and informative answer. It is hard to know what is a concern and what is not these days, and your answer was extremely helpful.

Second, I wanted to ask if you could re-send that email because I would like to share it with other parents who have also been wondering about this issue.

Again, thank you very much for your help and your wonderful work on this website.

Jan Ihmels

ANSWER: May 11 2009

Dear Jan,

Thankyou for your kind comments about our website.

It is highly recommended that you never allow a child (or pet) to chew on PVC electrical cords as it is my understanding that the vast majority have a small amount of lead in them. For  non-PVC chewing adults and sensible children however, it is simply recommended that you wash your hands with soap and water and dry them well after handling electrical cords. The lead will not leach out of the PVC through normal use. However, the lead could leach out of the PVC of these cords if, upon disposal, they were in the wet and acidic environment of a landfill. When cords are left in the sunshine, the PVC may begin to break down to some extent and the cord may develop a fine dust on the surface. It is this dust that you are aiming to wash off your hands after handling the cords. If you want to buy products with lead-free PVC electrical cords, you would need to either read all the labels or ask at the store, or, search online for the brands that are lead-free before you go to the store. You may also be interested to know that Greenpeace has the following information on their website at
Electrical Equipment

"All the alternative cable types have better properties than PVC in the event of a fire. They generate less smoke, do not release hydrochloric acid or dioxins and have fire-resistant qualities which match or outstrip PVC. All PVC-free cables cost more at present but will drop in price as consumer and municipalities demand safer material use.

"The use of PVC-free electrical cables is growing...PVC free cables (also known as low-smoke, zero-halogen or LSOH cables)...

All the best with your lead-aware buying.

Yours Sincerely

Elizabeth O'Brien

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