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Lead Hazards in the Home

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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During this busy holiday season families are hustling around the home getting ready for holiday events. Safety is a concern during decorating, cooking, baking and general holiday preparation. Due to the recent concern of lead in toys and other products, families need to be concerned with safety while shopping and when selecting holiday gifts.

Many of the toys imported from China contain toxic lead paint. Lead when ingested is toxic. Toys suspected of having lead in them should not be given to children. Children under the age of seven are at greatest risk of being poisoned by lead. Lead poisoning can cause a number of health and behavioral problems.

Lead paint hazards in houses are still the main exposure source for children in the United States. Lead-based paint, which was widely used in residences until the mid-1970's, is a common source of lead poisoning in children. Most houses built before 1950, contain lead-based paint. It is the most common source of lead in the home, even though it was banned in 1978.

Lead does not decompose or rot, so it stays in place for a long time. Lead has been used in many materials throughout history.

Paint chips are a hazard, if eaten. Therefore, it important to know if toys or items children play with or use contain lead. Lead dust is easily inhaled or ingested and is very difficult to identify. Lead dust may be scattered throughout the house and can be found on items in the home, play areas, soil and food.

If lead-paint is disturbed when cleaning or during renovation, dust can be released into the air in the home. If lead-paint surfaces show signs of deterioration, these surfaces should be taken care of immediately. Watch for conditions, such as chipping, flaking, abrasion and/or water damage.

If lead-based paint is a risk in the home, there are several ways to reduce the hazard. Lead abatement–removal of the paint–is costly and dangerous. Although it may be necessary, it should only be done by trained professionals. Sometimes, painted surfaces can be sealed with good quality paint or covered with another material. Good maintenance and housekeeping practices, especially wet cleaning to reduce dust, can help control the risk of lead dust.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was added December 2007 and appeared in the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper Sunday edition. For information on reproducing this article or using any photographs or graphics, read the Terms of Use statement)

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