Where Does the Lead Come From?
Zinc is used to galvanize steel, and zinc is nearly always contaminated with lead. This scientific journal article mentions the lead alloy used in the galvanization process.
And this article about the wide use of zinc+lead(Pb) in galvanized steel.
According to Lead Safe Mama, “While “galvanization” refers to the process of coating steel with an anti-corrosion layer of zinc, in practice, lead is commonly added as well in varying amounts (or can be a contaminant to the galvanization process, if not an additive). So while galvanized items may be lead-free, most of the items we have tested did contain lead — some quite a lot of it!”
Uses and Risks of Galvanized Steel
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has a food code that prohibits galvanized materials (tools and surfaces) to be used in contact with acidic food. The warning was issued in regards to the health implications of lead, zinc and other alloys in galvanized items which can leach toxins. Source: FDA Food code 2013 4-101.15.
However, galvanized steel is often used in restaurants for ceilings, bar siding, decor, and utensil containers.
Many people use galvanized steel in their homes as decor items, buckets to hold snack items, or toys, or use for baby baths. In some countries, it is often used as home and roof building materials. Most HVAC ductwork, unless it is flexible ductwork, is galvanized steel. Roofing tacks, which are often left littered across people’s yards after roof repair or replacement, are also galvanized. Some types of metal chain links (such as to lock hauling trailers) are as well.
Here’s a report about lead coming out of galvanized water pipes.
If used outside as garden planters, to hold water for animals, or chicken wire, it appears from the research that the galvanized coating will eventually break down, and the more acidic the soil, the faster the corrosion occurs. Source 1. Source 2. Source 3. Source 4.
Lead Safe Mama wrote that the soil near galvanized metal always tests positive when she tests it. You can see more of her galvanized test results here.
I saw these soil testing results from someone who used gavanized steel chicken wire in their coop.
Although galvanized steel doesn’t always contain lead, it does in many cases, so I personally avoid it. I have no galvanized steel in my home or yard, and if I buy eggs from people with chickens, I check to make sure they don’t use it either.
Better materials to use instead are stainless steel, glass (indoors) or untreated wood.
Photos of Galvanized Steel:
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