LEAD – Poison in our Home

This past weekend, I completed my EPA Renovator Certification training for lead safe work practices: eight hours of classroom followed by an exam. For those of you living in a home that was built before 1978 or for those of you who have pets or children, this post is for you.

Lead is toxic and there is no “minimum” or “safe” level if it is in your body. It takes a very small amount of lead to poison children, adults and pets. Although we’ve heard of lead paint on children’s toys and dinnerware with lead glazing, the majority of children who are poisoned each year are poisoned by lead dust in their very own home. Lead damages neural pathways that can lead to lowered IQ and memory and personality problems.

Your body can’t tell the difference between lead and calcium when it enters your body, so it is readily absorbed in organs, teeth, nails and bones. This is particularly problematic in both pregnant women and the elderly. In both cases their bodies remove calcium from bones (as well as any stored lead) and return it to the blood stream for use. In both it is like being freshly contaminated and in pregnant women, their unborn baby is affected. Children, particularly those who play on floors and in dirt where there is lead dust, can absorb 50% of the lead they ingest or breathe.

The major source of lead in a home, of course, is lead based paint. Paint that is chipping or flaking is easy for children and pets to ingest. However, when renovation or repair work is done on a house that has leaded paint, the resulting dust is the primary problem. It is extremely hard to remove by dusting, sweeping or using a conventional vacuum and it flows and settles beyond the work area. Outside the home there are sources of lead from nearby highways (leaded gas emissions from years ago) and building products that leach lead when water washes them off the house onto the ground. Children playing outside can easily be exposed to this. As well, outside dust can be tracked inside on shoes.

The Environmental Protection Agency, along with HUD and OSHA, regulate and enforce rules about testing and disturbing lead paint. They specify that “target housing,” i.e., houses built before 1978 except those which have been professionally tested to be “lead-based paint” free, and child occupied facilities built before 1978 should be regulated by the Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule (RRP). In California where laws are more stringent the rule applies to ALL pre-1978 structures.  RRP specifies that for the facilities mentioned above, lead safe work practices are required if 6 square feet or more per room or 20 square feet on the outside of a building are disturbed or when windows are replaced. The only exception is for emergency repair.

So if you or your landlord hires a contractor to do renovations or repairs in your home that is pre-1978, they have to follow very strict rules of preparation, lead safe practices while working and strict clean up procedures. If they don’t, they’re subject to fines of up to $37,500 per day. To become a Certified Renovator, your contractor must pass an 8 hour certification course which is good for 5 years. Their firm must also be certified. You, as the consumer, must also receive the EPA pamphlet “Renovate Right” if you are living in pre-1978 housing that hasn’t yet been tested to be free of lead.

If you decide to do the work yourself, be aware that if there is lead paint in your home, you could be exposing yourself and your family to potentially hazardous levels of lead dust. Having your home tested by a certified lead inspector will tell you if it is safe for you to perform your own work or if you’d be better having a trained professional perform the work. If you have any questions – email or comment below.

Click the picture for the brochure.

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2 Responses to LEAD – Poison in our Home

  1. ert360 says:

    Yes, very well said lead poisoning in the unwanted gift that keeps giving once you and you children have been exposed. Lots of sources of exposure to Lead as address in this post. Get your children under 7 years old blood tested for this highly toxic (Neurotoxin). Lead is naturally present within the earth’s crust and last forever once introduced into the environment. It does not dissipate, biodegrade. We need and use this heavy metal for many useful things 18 pounds helps start your car, truck or suv everyday and we use it to shield us from radiation from xray etc. Lead is very deceptive to your body. The body cannot differentiate between Calcium a substance we need and Lead a substance we do not. This is also very deceptive to Doctors by way of symptoms that can mimic the flu and can come and go based on exposure since lead stays in the blood stream 2 to 3 weeks once you have been exposed and can accumulate and store in your bone and soft tissue, teeth and nails (Accumulates in bones 25-30 years) This is why screening your children under 7 years old is vital if you home is built pre-1978 to make sure Blood Lead Levels if not elevated above 2 μg/dL (micrograms per deciliter) As part of the yearly checkup have blood draw and check for this also if you home is build pre-1940 it is estimated that 9 out of 10 homes have what is defined by EPA and HUD as Lead-Based Paint (LBP). A risk assessment of your home to evaluate if you have “Dust” from prior renovation, repair or painting is prudent, this will also include water sample (first draw) of tap water and soil sample around drip line (bare soil) or child’s play area if expose soil is present. “Lead Poisoning is the #1 Preventable Environmental Cause of Illness in Children” Quote by the CDC – Center for Disease Control “Children under the age of 7 years old have not developed what is referred to as the “Blood Brain Barrier” This is a structure within the central nervous system that does not allow toxins to pass from the blood to the neuro tissue, but does however allow good nutrients to pass. This is the main reason children under the age of 7 are most at risk for short term accumulative exposures to lead dust with long term effects during the early developmental years and beyond.” – Quoted by Gio Fanelli with ERT360.com. Lead also impacts adults (Contractors) since they work around LBP almost everyday and it gets on them (clothes) tools and truck which can be brought home in the form of secondary exposure to children (greeting you at the door) and maybe spouse (washing your dirty /dusty clothes lets not forget greeting with a hug or kiss maybe :). Lets also not forget about our beloved Pets. They can be poisoned by Lead as well, most Veterinarians diagnose Lead Hazards in the home before any other profession based on the fact that animals do not talk and vets almost always do blood work looking for heavy metal exposure (lead) based on the symptoms your pets displays during the checkup or why you brought them to the vet in the first place. You pets eat and lay on the floor or ground (outside bare soil as well maybe) where dust settles. Well I can on – Yes as the post states have a professional state certified Lead Inspector / Risk Assessor check you home again pre-1978 and have a EPA / HUD RRP Certified Renovator perform your next Renovation, Repair or Painting using “Lead Safe Work Practices” This is Good for you, your children, pet, the contractor and his employees and let not forget the environment.

  2. David says:

    Thanks for the great follow-up information. Your point about “Lead Poisoning being the #1 preventable environmental cause of illness in children” is the big take away. Hopefully everyone readying this post will email it to their friends and colleagues to spread the word.

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