Lead is an element that occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and can be beneficial for some uses but generally speaking it is dangerous as it can be toxic to humans and animals. Lead can be found in many different parts of the environment with much of our exposure coming from human activities. In the past, before the adverse health effects of lead were known, it was commonly used as an ingredient in paint.
Lead in the Home
If you live in a home that was built prior to 1978, it is highly likely that it has some lead based paint. While a ban on paint containing lead was implemented in late 1977, some states banned it even earlier. One of the most common causes of lead poisoning is lead from paint, and dust that is contaminated. Lead paint can still be found in millions of homes and when it is in good shape, it is normally not a problem but chipping or cracking lead paint is a major hazard. Lead dust can also come from lead based paint and can also be dangerous.
The Risk of Lead Poisoning
Children are most susceptible to lead poisoning as their bodies will often absorb more lead. The nervous systems and brains of children are also more sensitive to the adverse effects of lead. In addition, children and babies tend to be more exposed to lead because they put their hands as well as objects that could contain lead in their mouths. Kids can also be exposed to lead if they inhale lead dust that comes from lead based paint or from eating off of dishes that contain lead. Adults can also be at risk of lead poisoning. Lead dust can build up during repairs or renovation work and can be dangerous. Some hobbies or jobs can also increase exposure to lead.
Lead can affect nearly every system and organ in the body with children under the age of six years being most susceptible to the negative effects. Even low levels of lead can cause issues such as anemia, delayed growth, hyperactivity, and learning and behavior problems. In some rare cases, lead ingestion can cause seizure, coma, and possibly death. Lead poisoning in pregnant women can lead to premature birth and reduced fetus growth. In adults, lead can cause cardiovascular issues, reproductive problems, and decreased function of the kidneys.
Staying Safe and Reducing Lead Exposure
One of the easiest things you can do to reduce your chances of exposure to lead is keep your home clean. When cleaning inspect all painted surfaces to ensure that paint is not deteriorating. You should also clean around painted areas such as window sills with a wet sponge to get rid of paint chips and dust. Periodically flushing water outlets that are used for food or drinking prep is also a good idea. Another thing you can do is ensure that your family is eating a healthy, well balanced diet as children who eat a healthy diet tend to absorb less lead. If you decide to renovate or repair your home, make sure that you contractor is following lead safe work practices.
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Lead Paint Regulations
While lead does occur naturally, the use of items such as lead based paint are controlled in the United States and other countries. Lead paint was banned in 1977 by the Consumer Product Safety Commission in public buildings and residential properties. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency enacted the Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP Rule). The RRP Rule was meant to reduce the risk of lead contamination during home renovations.
- EPA – Learn About Lead
- Read About Lead Based Paint
- What Homeowners Need to Know About Removing Lead Paint
- Testing For and Removing Lead Paint
- An Overview of Lead Poisoning
- Exposure to Lead
- The Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
- Lead Poisoning in Children
- OSHA Safety and Health Topics – Lead
- Lead Poisoning and Health Fact Sheet
- Lead Poisoning Signs and Symptoms
- Lead Exposure in Children – Prevention, Detection, Management
- Lead Alert – Lead in House Paint
- The Dangers of Lead Based Paint
- CPSC Announces Final Ban on Lead Containing Paint
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