Homes - Indoor Air Quality
Lead & Lead Hazards
Does Lead Come From? There are numerous sources of lead
in our environment. Lead does not decompose or rot, so it
stays in place for a long time. Lead has been used in many
materials throughout history.
for most children, the major source of lead is from lead
contaminated dust. Most of this lead dust comes from old
paint with lead or leaded gasoline. Lead-based paint has
been banned since 1978, but many older homes still have
this paint on walls, woodwork, siding, windows, and doors.
As the paint wears, or is disturbed by renovations, it creates
lead dust. Leaded gasoline is no longer allowed for most
uses. However, much of the soil near busy roads is still
contaminated from the past burning of leaded gasoline. This
soil can get into our homes.
are many other possible sources of lead in the environment.
While these other sources of lead are less common than paint
or contaminated soil, they can be a problem in a particular
location or home. These include industrial pollution, ceramics
or pottery dishes with lead glazes (rare in the U.S. unless
antique), hobby or art materials, lead soldered food cans
(illegal in the U.S.), and folk medicines. Some older homes
may have lead pipes or lead solder on plumbing pipes that
can contaminate the water.
the United States, we have made great progress in reducing
the lead in our environment, and protecting our children
from lead poisoning. However, the battle is not won. There
are almost a million preschool age children with elevated
levels of lead in their blood over 4% of all children
in the U.S. Given the severe mental and physical consequences
of even very small amounts of lead in a childs body,
we must continue the effort to eliminate lead poisoning.
Hazards and Children: Children face more serious risks
from lead exposure than adults. Growing bodies are very
sensitive to the effects of lead. In addition, childhood
behaviors, such as hand-to-mouth activities, make it easy
for lead to enter their bodies. Lead poisoning is a common
pediatric health problem. It can affect children of all
social classes in urban, suburban, or rural housing.
introduction of lead into a childs body can severely
harm brain and central nervous system functions. Often this
damage does not produce immediate symptoms, so harmful lead
exposure can go untreated. The result is impaired mental
and physical development. Research has shown a relationship
between high blood lead levels in children and lower IQ
scores. Other effects, which may become permanent, include
learning, behavioral, speech, and growth problems.
of the health effects of lead poisoning, children may not
reach their full potential. Lead poisoning has not just
personal, but social consequences. Most disturbing is that
lead poisoning is totally preventable!
poisoning is a very serious disease. Even low levels of
lead may cause adverse health effects. Fortunately, this
health hazard can be prevented by identifying the risks
and taking actions designed to eliminate and reduce a childs
exposure. Identify potential sources of lead in a childs
environment and work to reduce or eliminate this hazard.
Provide the child with a healthy diet, high in calcium and
iron and low in fat, to minimize absorption of lead by the
body. Further, test all children at the age of one year
for elevated blood lead levels.
Children for Lead Exposure: Many experts recommend that
all children should have a blood lead level test at the age
of 12 months. Children in high-risk exposure groups should
be tested as young as 6 months. Follow-up testing should occur
at 24 months. Further testing may be needed if the risk continues.
at particular risk for lead poisoning include those who:
in or regularly visit a house, daycare center or home of
a relative built before 1978, especially if there is peeling
or chipping paint, or recent or on-going remodeling:
a sibling, housemate, pet, or playmate that recently had
with an adult whose job or hobby involves exposure to
near an active lead smelter or other industry likely to
blood test can reveal recent lead exposure. Lead in blood
is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood
(µg/dL). If the amount of lead is at or above 10 µg/dL,
there is concern that the child is being exposed to dangerous
amounts of lead. An investigation of the childs environment
is necessary to find the sources of lead. High blood lead
levels may require medical treatment
Based Paint and Lead Hazards: 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 toys, floors, play areas, soil, and food.
paint is found in many places in and around an older home.
Examples include interior and exterior walls, ceilings,
stairways, door and window trim, and baseboards. If surfaces
that contain lead-based paint are in good condition, they
are not likely to pose a hazard. However, all lead-based
paint surfaces should be inspected regularly to look for
signs of wear or disintegration.
lead-painted surface that shows signs of deterioration can
easily release lead into the environment. In particular,
watch for hazardous conditions such as chipping, flaking,
abrasion, and water damage.
home renovation that disturbs lead-based paint can release
very dangerous amounts of lead dust into the air in the
home. Home remodeling is a frequent cause of lead poisoning
in young children. Renovation work should proceed only when
those performing the work are well aware of the hazards
and knowledgeable about how to reduce the risk.
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.
for Lead: If your home was built before 1978, it could
have lead-based paint. Older homes, such as those built before
1950, are more likely to have lead-based paint, and may have
other source of lead, such as plumbing. Confirming the presence
of lead is the first step to controlling the hazard of lead.
If a painted surface is suspected of lead, have it tested.
are three ways used to test for lead in paint. Do-it-yourself
test kits are available from home supply or hardware stores,
or through catalogues. These typically use a swab that will
change colors in the presence of lead. These kits only test
the surface they contact, and the results may not be reliable.
fluorescence (XRF) analysis uses an instrument that looks
something like a gun. The gun is aimed at the painted surface
and the quantity of lead is measured without damage to the
finish. When used by a licensed and trained professional,
XRF analysis can be very accurate. However, it can be expensive.
analysis is a reliable method to test for lead. Typically,
samples of paint are removed and sent to a laboratory for
analysis. Commercial environmental testing laboratories
can chemically evaluate samples for the presence of lead.
Some health departments may offer this service. Removing
the paint samples for testing will damage the surface. An
alternative to removing paint samples is to use a damp wipe
to dust painted surfaces, and then test the wipe for the
presence of lead dust.
for lead can be complicated and expensive, but may be necessary.
For example, if a child is diagnosed with lead poisoning,
the source must be found. Lead Inspectors are licensed and
trained professionals that can test a home for the presence
of lead in your home. Risk Assessors are lead inspectors
with further training to help you identify and reduce the
overall hazards and risks of lead in your home.
the Risk of Lead in Your Home: Lead abatement
removing the source of lead will reduce the hazard
of lead. However, the method can be costly. It is also dangerous.
Lead abatement, if not done according to strict safety guidelines,
can increase the amount of lead dust, and thus lead hazards,
in the home. Lead abatement is a job for trained and licensed
lead abatement is not a reasonable option, there are other
ways to reduce the hazard of lead in the home. Here are
a barrier to the source of lead. Place drywall or paneling
over deteriorating surfaces that contain lead-based paint.
clean floors, baseboards, windowsills, and other surfaces
regularly, to reduce lead dust. Use warm water and an
all-purpose cleaner. Thoroughly rinse mops, sponges, and
cloths after cleaning.
a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner.
Common household vacuum cleaners can actually increase
exposure to lead dust.
hands before preparing foods or eating meals.
childrens toys frequently.
shoes when coming inside the home to limit lead dust from
children from playing near deteriorating lead-based paint
children and pets out of areas of renovations or remodeling,
to minimize exposure to lead dust.
grass or ground cover over soil that might have high lead
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