Question

There is a warning label on my new light fixture saying the brass exposes you to lead. How safe is this to hang above my kitchen island?

Asked by Laura Mandell
Warren, NJ

I am completing a green kitchen renovation. Will this affect my indoor air quality or be a problem with food preparation? The light fixture will hang 20" from the ceiling above my counter. The label says: "WARNING: Handling the brass parts of this product will expose you to lead, a chemical known to the State of California to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. WASH HANDS AFTER HANDLING."

Answer

Elliot Seibert

Answered by Elliot Seibert

Washington, DC

Everyday Green

October 20, 2010

Lead has long been a component of brass products, from plumbing fixtures to keys. It is added during the manufacturing process to make the material easier to process. 

  • Usually the lead content is only about 2% or less, but the lead can become concentrated on the surface of the product.
  • Brass plumbing fixtures that include lead have been a safety concern for years because the lead can leach into water.

In the case of a brass light fixture, the main pathway for exposure is physical contact. The lead has no way of becoming airborne, so it is not an indoor air quality concern. 

  • However, there could be a very real safety concern if the fixture is at a height where it can be easily touched.
  • This is especially the case in the kitchen, where lead transferred to the hands could migrate to food and become ingested.

There will always be debate about what constitutes safe levels of exposure, but common sense suggests playing it safe.

If the fixture is in a location where physical contact is possible or likely, consider another fixture. If not, you should be safe as long as you remember to wash your hands after handling the fixture, like when changing a bulb.

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