DANGERS OF LEAD PAINT
Many houses built
before 1978 have paint that contains lead (called lead-based paint). Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health
hazards, if not taken care of properly. In 1996 federal law requires that individuals receive certain information before renting,
buying, or renovating pre-1978 housing. Sellers have to disclose known information on lead-based paint hazards before selling
a house. Sales contracts will include a federal form about lead-based paint in the building. Buyers will have up to 10 days
to check for lead hazards. Renovators will have to give you the information in this article before starting work.
LEAD GETS IN THE BODY IN MANY WAYS
One out of every eleven children in the United States has dangerous levels of lead in their bloodstream.
Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead. People can get lead in their body if they: put their hands
or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths, eat paint chips or soil that contain lead, or breathe in lead dust
(especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces).
Lead is even more dangerous to children than adults because children's growing bodies absorb more lead
and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. If not detected early, children with
high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from: damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems
(such as hyperactivity), slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches.
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy and other reproductive
problems (in both men and women). Other effects are high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration
problems, and muscle and joint pain. Lead can affect the body in many ways.
CHECKING YOUR FAMILY FOR LEAD
your children tested if you think your home has high levels of lead. A simple blood test can detect lead levels. Blood tests
are important for children who are 6 months to 1 year old (6 months if you live in an older home that might have lead in the
paint) and family members you think might have high levels of lead. If your child is older than 1 year, talk to your doctor
about whether your child needs testing. Your doctor or health center can do the blood tests. They are inexpensive and sometimes
free. Your doctor will explain what the test results mean. Treatment can range from changes in your diet to medication or
a hospital stay.
WHERE LEAD-BASED PAINT
In general, the older your home, the
more likely it has lead-based paint. Many homes built before 1978 have lead based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned
lead-based paint from housing. Leas can be found in single family homes and apartments, inside and outside the house, in soil
around a home. (Soil can pick up lead from exterior paint, or other sources such as past use of leaded gas in cars.)
is most likely to be a hazard in paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can’t always see. Lead-based
paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard. Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard
and needs immediate attention. Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that
gets a lot of wear and tear, These areas include: windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings and banisters,
and porches and fences.
Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms
when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled
lead dust can reenter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it. Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play
in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.
CHECKING YOUR HOME FOR LEAD HAZARDS
knowing a home has lead-based paint may not tell you if there is a hazard. You can get your home checked for lead hazards
in two ways, or both:
- a paint inspection tells you
the lead content of every painted surface in your home
risk assessment tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure (such as peeling paint and lead dust). It also
tells you what actions to take to address these hazards.
Have qualified professionals do the work. Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your
home, including visual inspection of paint condition and location, lab tests of paint samples, surface dust tests, and a portable
x-ray fluorescence machine. Home test kits for lead are available, but should not be the only method used before doing renovations
or to assure safety.
WHAT YOU CAN DO TO PROTECT
If you suspect that your house
has lead hazard, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk. Clean up paint chips immediately. Clean
floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and a general purpose
cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bed time. Keep children from chewing window
sills and other painted surfaces. Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil. Make
sure children eat nutritious, low fat meals high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and low-fat dairy product. Children
with good diets absorb less lead.
lead improperly can increase the hazard to your family by spreading even more lead dust around the house. Always use a professional
who is trained to remove lead hazards safely. In addition to day to day cleaning and good nutrition you can temporarily reduce
lead hazards by taking actions like repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels.
These actions (called "interim controls") are not permanent solutions and will not eliminate all risks of exposure.
To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard
elimination) methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the
hazard with regular paint is not enough. Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems, someone
who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. If possible, hire a certified lead
abatement contractor. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow safety rules set by the state or the
REMODELING A HOME
WITH LEAD-BASED PAINT
If not conducted properly, certain
types of renovations can release lead from paint and dust into the air. Take precautions before you begin remodeling or renovations
that disturb painted surfaces (such as scraping off paint or tearing out walls). These include:
- Have the area tested for lead-based paint.
- Do not use a dry scraper, belt sander, propane torch, or heat gun to remove lead-based paint. These
actions create large amounts of lead dust and fumes. Lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
- Temporarily move your family (especially children and
pregnant women) out of your house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family,
at least completely seal off the work area.
you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children
tested and follow the steps outlined above.
SOURCES OF LEAD
While paint, dust, and soil are the most
common lead hazards, other lead sources also exist.
water. Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your water supplier about testing your water. You cannot
see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it,
then use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Also run water for 15 to 30 seconds before drinking it especially if you
have not used your water for a few hours.
the Job. If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming
home. Launder your clothes separately from the rest of your family’s.
- Miscellaneous Sources. Old and new painted toys and furniture imported from less regulated countries.
- Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed
pottery or porcelain.
- Foods and canned goods imported
from less regulated countries.
- Lead smelters or other
industries that release lead into the air.
that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass, or refinishing furniture.
- Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" used to treat an