Many people think that since lead has been removed from paint and gasoline, it is no longer a threat. But almost a third of American children have dangerously high blood lead levels. Although consumer products are probably the greatest source of lead exposure, lead lurks in many homes, perhaps most.
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that occurs naturally in small amounts. Natural levels of lead in soil range between 50 and 400 parts per million (ppm), but human industrial activities have led to much higher lead exposure levels. Lead can accumulate in the body and can be fatal at high levels.
Lead exposure damages all organs and systems of the human body, especially the brain and central nervous system. Although everyone is harmed by lead exposure, the impacts are more profound for infants and children. No safe blood lead levels in children have been identified. Even low blood lead levels have been shown to negatively affect a child’s intelligence, attention span, and academic achievement. THE effects of lead the poisonings are permanent.
Does your home contain lead?
Lead was added to interior and exterior paint until 1978. If your home was built before 1978, it could still contain layers of lead paint. The older your home, the more likely lead paint is. always present in or on it. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder, which can corrode, allowing lead to enter drinking water. In regards to a third water districts across the country still use lead supply lines.
In 2011, amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act reduces the maximum advance allowed contained in plumbing as well as solder and flux. Problems with lead leaching into water occur more often in homes with brass faucets (even when they are chrome plated) and with fixtures that use lead solder.
The best way to know if your home contains lead is to test it. You can use a 3M LeadCheck swab hardware for testing surfaces and have your home water tested to see if lead is getting in there. If there is lead in your water, or you want to prevent leaching in the first place, contact your utility to find out more about your supply pipes. You can verify lead pipes inside your house yourself. If you are planning a renovation project, have a certified inspector conduct a lead risk assessment before you begin. You might also consider test the ground in your garden, especially in places where you grow vegetables or where children play.
Get rid of lead
As with asbestos, undamaged lead paint is best sealed and left as is. Simply add a fresh coat of low VOC paint to any surfaces that have been painted with lead paint, being careful not to disturb the underlying coats. However, if lead paint is flaking, peeling, chalking, cracking, damaged or wet, as occurs in high wear areas like window sills, it is a hazard and should be removed. . This is not a do-it-yourself project: find an EPA or state certified lead-free home improvement contractor.
If your water supply pipes contain lead, consider purchasing a NSF/ANSI Standard 53 certified water filter which is certified for lead removal. In some communities with lead supply pipes, such as Newark, New Jersey, these filters may be available directly from your water utility. If you have lead pipes inside your home, consider replacing them. Replacing your plumbing is expensive, but it’s the safest solution. There is some federal grants to help replace residential pipes. Check with your local utility to find out if additional incentives or local grants are available.
If the lead level in your soil is above 5,000 ppm, you may need to find a certified contractor to replace the surface soil. At lower levels, you may be able to grow crops safely with good soil management. Frequent hand washing, keeping shoes outside the house, and damp dusting will help keep lead dust from accumulating indoors.
Once you’ve taken remedial action to seal or replace old paint and leaded plumbing, you’ll want to avoid reintroducing lead into your home. Lead is still used in some applications today, such as in soldering and roof flashings. These lead sources are unlikely to result in exposure to lead in daily life. But be careful when bringing used building materials and household items (whether for aesthetic or durability reasons) into the home. Building reuse stores sometimes accept older materials, such as doors and stair railings, which may contain lead. Similarly, many have imported ceramic And vintage housewares also contain lead. It is best to assume that the paint on vintage items contains lead until testing proves otherwise.
Despite regulations, it is not safe to assume that new consumer items are lead-free. A lot toys and crafts (such as stained glass) and even some beauty products still contain lead. More dangerously still, some folk remedies for upset stomach and morning sickness contain lead.
We originally published this article on January 24, 2022.