We took a short trip to Philadelphia last week. I promised my daughter we’d pop into Dick Blick, since we don’t have one in Baltimore. Among the varied treats in the pencil section were racks of Möbius and Ruppert brass sharpeners. I have always wanted the Alvin Bullet/M&P Grenate, and I couldn’t leave without the latter. I noticed a bizarre sticker on the reverse of the package:
WARNING: This product contains lead, known to CA to cause birth defects and other reproductive harm. Wash hands frequently.
My previous (current?) favorite pocket sharpener is a brass KUM Wedge that I picked up in Chicago in 2005 or 2006. I have no idea how many times I’ve used it while cooking, “coloring” with my daughter, or just jiggled it around in my pocket while standing on the bus. I have smelled it on my hands before, to tell the truth.
Turns out that lead is added to brass to improve its machinability. This can include sharpeners, keys, etc. (More info here.)
I never thought there was lead involved in pencils (save perhaps the paint in very old ones). This is a small amount, though I am not sure if there is an amount of lead that is trivial enough to ignore, especially if you have Little Ones running around your Outpost. I know there is controversy surrounding Proposition 65 (which requires labels on the infamously PVC Moleskine books made by a company that seems to have never delivered their “safer” cover material and, I assume, never will). I can’t say there’s no PVC in my house, certainly. And, being 113 years old, I can’t say there’s no lead, either.
Fortunately for Comrades concerned about surface lead, there is help from home brewers. I haven’t tried this myself, but we’d be glad to post anything from anyone who tries it.
Are there brass sharpener fans out there, and are folks…moved by this info? (Is it old news and something I’ve just always missed?) I’ve still been using my brass sharpeners. But I have to admit I’ve been washing my hands afterwards if my daughter is around.