Trying to find a harmless bath tub under $400

naturalmomFebruary 13, 2013

Hi -- We are replacing our wretched, worn-to-the-metal tub from the 1980's. I may only spend $400 or less.
I have read that porcelain contains lead, and I am concerned that Vikrell (Sterling's version of plastic), Acrylic, and fiberglass may have BPA's, pthalates, or some other toxic endocrine disruptor that will add to the general toxic load. I have 5 kids, and I've been pregnant and/or nursing for the past 14 years, so I just assume I will be nursing and/or pregnant for ever and ever and ever -- plus, the little ones will be bathing in the tub, too, so they'll get it from me and the tub, whatever the offending substance is.
I've been up until the wee hours of the morning, trying to find answers to these questions, but I got nothing.
Also -- I'd prefer the deepest, non-toxic, durable thing, I can get for the money. I have it narrowed down to the Sterling Encore (plastic, but deep) and the American Standard Cambridge. Anyone know anything about this aspect of tub minutiae hand-wringing?

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Unless you're planning on ingesting the tub I wouldn't worry.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 3:42PM
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I've been very pleased with my Sterling tub. It's so deep we joked we'd need a step stool to get in, but we quickly got used to it. My dad wants to come up for a soak though, so it must be decently deep. I just assumed our old crappy one was very shallow.

Considering the contact time and limited area, I don't think the material would be much of an issue. I'd be more concerned with cleaning products than structural material.

    Bookmark   February 15, 2013 at 7:27PM
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You can't get lead poisoning from sitting in a porcelain tub. Don't worry about it.

    Bookmark   February 17, 2013 at 12:34AM
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The "lead scare" in porcelain bathtubs was based on data and testing of old, wear-damaged tubs.

Less than 10% of new porcelain tubs test positive for lead. Take a lead test swab to the showroom if you are concerned.

Your old worn 80s tub may be a risk (have you tested it?) but a new porcelain one will not be.

I would also have the five kids, as well as yourself, tested for blood lead levels. You may find yourself very much relieved--stress and anxiety are certainly not healthy for anyone.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 8:43AM
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Thanks for your replies, everyone. InfoDiva, I found your post especially helpful. We just had our house professionally tested for lead. There is none, not even in the dust. Thank the Lord!
Some of you, especially if you don't have young children, may not be aware that one most definitely absorbs substances into one's body via the skin. Medicines can be delivered transdermally, by a patch. Plastics can have substances in them that act like estrogen in the body, and these most definitely can be absorbed through the skin, Moreover, little kids in the bathtub, swallow water from time to time.
The effect of so much plastic, with its estrogen-like effect, in the world has been reduced fertility in fish, more fish with characteristics of both sexes, and in humans, a worldwide reduction in sperm counts, and (ahem) other measures of masculine features are on the decline. The effects of excess estrogen (or things that act like estrogen in the body) on females are also bad: polycystic ovarian syndrome, various cancers, and so on.
You may have seen sippy cups in the grocery store with "BPA free" labels on them. That's a result of consumer demand for less harmful products.
As far as whether you can absorb lead from a bath, you can. Lead accumulates in the body over time and can have deleterious effects. When you take a bath, you're in a kind of soup, including whatever MAY leach from the tub into the bathwater. If dishes containing lead are dangerous, because the lead can leach into the food, it stands to reason that lead can leach from a bathtub into the bath water.
For your own information, if you have children or are pregnant:

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:27AM
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In case anyone is interested, I posted this question to the Green Home Guide, and here is the answer I got from Molly McCabe, AKBD, CGP, CAPS:

I am not surprised you had difficulty finding answers to your questions. Most
manufacturers are quite proprietary about their manufacturing processes and more specifically finishing processes.

Cast iron, fiberglass, acrylic, Vikrell
Cast iron tubs with enamel finishes are unlikely to contain lead unless they are old, were re-finished prior to the lead paint ban or are manufactured in China. (Not all Chinese made tubs have lead in them but you should be cautious).

I am not a chemist but I do know that fiberglass, acrylic, or "Vikrell", are made from a variety of components including poly resins and plasticizers which contain phthalic acid or phthalic esters which phthalates are derived from as well as BPAs. The US is following the lead of Europe and Canada and phthalates are being phased out of use in consumer products while BPAs have been banned outright from specific consumer products with likely more to come.

Risk of leaching
It is difficult to say if there is any potential leaching risk from these materials which can be directly linked to health risks with bathtub use.

From a purely structural standpoint, the gelcoat surface of tubs and shower surrounds are highly non-porous (acrylic more so than fiberglass or Vikrell) which should effectively seal in the chemicals of concern.

That said, improper use or maintenance of the tub or shower surround along with prolonged exposure to the sun can degrade the surface layer the tub/shower potentially releasing the phthalates or BPAs.
With respect to the gelcoat itself, this material is designed to be UV resistant and is relatively inert once cured so again leaching should be minimal but the fact is that it too is made from epoxy or polyester resin which may contain phthalates or BPAs.
Making a decision
In conclusion, it is difficult to say definitively that any one material is safer than another.

I can say that acrylic is more durable than fiberglass or Vikrell and that enamel is more durable than acrylic.
There are many factors that go into a product decision selection.
Heath risks appear to be your primary criteria.
When making a product decision, also consider the cost, the manufacturing process (does it release pollutants into the atmosphere), the lifecycle of a product as well as its carbon footprint.

Good luck!

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 1:57PM
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Thank you for posting this info. I'm shopping for a new tub and was pretty sure I'd get cast iron and would buy made in usa anyway, if I could find it. Think Kohler has some tubs that fit the criteria. Good luck in your selection.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 2:49PM
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So, what do I win for posting the right answer? Just without the details, lol.

    Bookmark   March 11, 2013 at 9:56PM
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