Excessive Lead Around Home

Problem: Lead exposure in home is high enough to threaten health of occupants.

Background: Lead poisoning occurs when too much lead builds up in the body. It can cause learning, behavior, and health problems in children and high blood pressure, and dam age to kidneys and reproductive organs in adults. Often there are no symptoms until health problems are very serious, but they can include loss of appetite, irritability, constipation, loss of recently acquired skills, headache, stomach cramps, drowsiness, lack of energy and disrupted sleep patterns.
Sources of lead include cracking, chipping, and peeling lead-based paint, dust from paint chips, soil next to buildings with chipped paint or near homes that have been re modeled or torn down, areas near heavy traffic, or water if the home water system has lead pipes or cop per pipes joined with lead solder. Most at risk are children 6 years old and younger who are living in homes built before 1960. Persons re modeling homes also may be at risk if paint has lead in it. (The amount of lead used in household paint was not limited until 1978.) A simple blood test at a local public health clinic or family doctor can deter mine whether there is too much lead in the body.

What to do: Your local health department can tell you how to have the paint in your home tested for lead. Lead-based paint may have been used on cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, railings, and ceilings. Don’t let children eat or chew on anything that may have paint on it; check for teeth marks on woodwork. Clean windows often with soap and water be cause loose paint and dust can build up in window areas. The best solution is to remove the lead source; painting over chipping or peeling lead-based paint does not make it safe. (If you can’t remove peeling or chipping lead-based paint right away, block off areas, cover with masking tape, or move cribs or beds away from the wall.)
Since dust can be contaminated, keep the home as dust-free as possible, using a trisodium phosphate detergent to wet mop floors and wipe furniture and windowsills. Wash children’s hands before eating, naps, and bedtime; wash bottles, teething rings, and toys often. Keep windows closed on windy days to keep dust out. Don’t let children eat outside on the ground, eat dirt, or play right next to the home or the street. Take shoes off before entering the home to avoid tracking dust inside. Wash fruits and vegetables before eating (remove outer leaves of leafy vegetables), and don’t store juices or food in open cans. Plant gardens away from the house. Don’t use home remedies that contain lead; use non- aspirin pain relievers instead.
Plumbing installed before 1930 may contain lead pipes; homes built before the 1980s may have water pipes joined with lead-based solder. Have your water tested by a certified lab. If you suspect lead is in your water, let it run for a couple of minutes, or until there is a tempera- hire change, each time it has been sitting in the pipes for 6 hours or more. Don’t cook, drink, or make baby formula with water from the hot water faucet; hot water dissolves more lead than cold water. If you need hot water, take it from the cold water faucet and heat it.

Special advice: Removing lead- based paint incorrectly can cause a serious health threat. It should be done by a qualified contractor (check with your local health department) who knows safe removal methods, how to contain lead- contaminated debris, and the proper cleanup and disposal of the debris. Special protective clothing and respirators must be worn. Vacuum cleaners with “high efficiency particulate air (HEPA)” filters should be used to clean up dust and debris, areas need to be washed with a trisodium phosphate detergent, then re vacuumed with the HEPA vacuum a second time. Young children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, and pets should not be allowed in the home while the cleanup is being done.

Helpful hint: Adults who work in jobs that require the use of lead, including painters, remodelers, or workers in smelters or battery plants, should shower and change clothes before coming home.