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Lead in the Home

Submitted by Lorene Bartos, UNL Extension Educator

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Lead-based paint, which was widely used in residences until the mid 1970's, is a common source of lead poisoning in children. Many houses built before 1980, and most houses built before 1950, contain lead-based paint. When this paint is disturbed through remodeling or renovation, lead dust is released into the home. This dust is easily ingested or inhaled by children and can lead to lead poisoning. Any project that disturbs the paint in an older home should be carried out with great care. If there is lead in the home, removing the lead take special precautions.

Lead abatement – removing the source of lead – will reduce the hazard of lead. However, the method can be costly and dangerous. Lead abatement, if not done according to strict safety guidelines, can increase the amount of lead dust hazards in the home. Lead abatement is a job for trained and licensed professionals.

If lead abatement is not a reasonable option, there are other ways to reduce the hazard of lead in the home. Here are some ideas:

* Create a barrier to the source of lead. Place drywall or paneling over deteriorating surfaces containing lead-based paint.

* Wet 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.

* Use a High Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) vacuum cleaner. Common household vacuum cleaners can actually increase exposure to lead dust.

* Wash hands before preparing foods or eating meals.

* Wash children's toys frequently.

* Remove shoes when coming inside the home to limit lead dust from outside.

* Prohibit children from playing near deteriorating lead-based paint surfaces.

* Keep children and pets out of areas of renovations or remodeling, to minimize exposure to lead dust.

* Plant grass or ground cover over soil that might have high lead levels.

Your home is probably safe from lead if it was built after 1978 and has no older furniture or toys. Old varnish that looks cloudy may contain lead. Lead-based paint was often mixed with varnish to give a deeper color. Clear finishes do not contain dangerous levels of lead.

If you have family members who live in older houses, it would be a good idea to help them check their house especially if they have young children who visit them.

Ask Lorene

(This resource was updated October 2008 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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