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Monday, September 27, 2010

Lead Hazards and Poisoning

Even though the threat of lead poisoning has been greatly reduced since the banning of lead paint and gasoline, the threat still exists, especially for those who live in a home that was built before 1978. Children can eat the dust or chips from lead paint in an older home so it is important to make sure your home is safe if you live in an older home.

To reduce your child’s risk of lead exposure, get your child checked, get your home checked and fix any hazards that may be present.

A simple blood test can detect lead in the body, so talk to your pediatrician for advice on testing. Blood lead levels increase the fastest from 6-12 months and peak at 18-24 months. (From the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA))

The EPA suggests these things for your home:

You can get your home checked in one of two ways, or both:

1. A paint inspection tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home. It won't tell you whether the paint is a hazard or how you should deal with it.

2. A 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. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely, reliably, and effectively. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for a list of contacts in your area.

Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
1. Visual inspection of paint condition and location.
2. A portable x-ray fluorescence (XRF) machine.
3. Lab tests of paint samples.
4. Surface dust tests.

Things you can do to protect your family:

If you suspect there are lead hazards in your home, you can take these steps:

1. If you rent, notify your landlord immediately if you see peeling or chipping paint.
2. Clean up pain chips immediately.
3. Clean window sills and frames, floors and other surfaces on a weekly basis (you can use an all-purpose cleaner or one made especially for lead)
4. Rinse mops and sponges after cleaning dirty or dusty areas
5. Wash your child’s hands frequently
6. Keep play areas clean
7. Keep children from chewing on paint near window sills and other painted surfaces.

You should permanently remove the lead hazards, but you should not do this yourself. You must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor, who specializes in lead paint removal. They will know how to remove, seal or enclose the lead-based paint so it is no longer a hazard.

The EPA has some great publications on lead. For basic information, check out Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil, Basic Information . This publication provides comprehensive information on lead facts, health effects of lead and much more. It also has links to more information like Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Guide, Finding a Qualified Lead Professional for Your Home, and more.

Here are some other links for more information:

Lead Poisoning (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research)

Lead Test (American Association for Clinical Chemistry)

Lead Poisoning Prevention Tips (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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