Home Lead Melting Draws National Warning as Producers Obey California Law

December 16, 1996

(16 Dec., 1996 — Oakland) Hobbyists who make their own lead sinkers, toy soldiers, or bullets at home will be warned about a previously unrecognized risk to themselves and their children, following lawsuits by the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) under California’s innovative Proposition 65. EDF also identified a substitute metal for melting that avoids the risk.

“It’s not just the man at the melting pot who’s in danger,” said David Roe, EDF senior attorney. “It’s also his children or grandchildren who aren’t even in the house while molten lead is being handled.”

EDF studies found that melting lead in hobby equipment not only puts lead into the air immediately, but also deposits invisible lead dust around the house, where children and adults can be exposed long after. “The problem doesn’t stop when you put your lead-casting kit away,” said Roe. “Unless you know how to do specialized cleaning, you’ve created a hazard like lead paint that stays in the house indefinitely.” Ordinary vacuuming and dusting just stirs up the lead dust and creates more exposure.

“The best answer is either not to cast at home, or to use a safe substitute for lead,” said Roe. One of the lawsuit defendants, Hilts Molds, sells a substitute alloy specifically for melting that avoids the hazard.

Companies that make and sell the equipment for home lead-casting (molds, melters, etc.) have agreed both to warn their customers about the risk and — for those who decide not to stop the practice — tell them how best to reduce exposure. The warning emphasizes the risk to children and pregnant women. It advises strong ventilation during use, and explains how lead dust can successfully be cleaned off of surfaces and floors where it settles.

The required warning is the first under Proposition 65 to include a graphic depiction reinforcing the product makers’ “how to” message to their customers.

All major makers and catalogue sellers of the casting equipment have legally committed themselves to give the new warnings. Companies signing settlements with EDF include Blount, Inc.; Gander Mountain, Inc.; Lee Precision, Inc.; C. Palmer Manufacturing Co.; Cabela’s; Lyman Products Corp; Midsouth Shooters Supply Co.; Midway; Do-It Corp; and Hilts Molds. The San Francisco law firm of Chapman, Popik & White represented EDF in its lawsuits against the companies.