National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: A Valuable Guide to Keeping Your Family Safe
Here’s a shocking statistic: 1 in 40 children aged 1-5 years in the United States has unsafe levels of lead in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). That means approximately 3.3 million American households with children under six live in homes containing lead exposure hazards. And over 500,000 children, under the age of six, are being diagnosed with lead poisoning annually – a statistic that doesn’t even include the number of older children affected. Clearly, lead poisoning is a serious health issue – and it is one that affects families living in suburbia and rural areas as much as it does for those living in cities.
Lead poisoning can result in a range of serious health problems, including autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, violent tendencies, and behavior and learning problems. It’s imperative that parents take action to protect their children from the permanent and irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning.
Even low levels of lead exposure can impair a child’s cognitive development, emphasizing the critical need for prevention. Early action, especially testing the home for the presence of lead paint and lead dust — will help to prevent serious health problems and save lives, since even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development.
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW), observed from October 22-28, 2023, serves as a reminder of the importance of protecting our children and communities from the dangers of lead exposure. It’s a good time to heed NLPPW’s theme: “Together, we can prevent lead exposure.”
Do’s for Lead Poisoning Prevention
The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable. Here are eight valuable do’s and don’ts from Robert Weitz, a licensed lead consultant and principal of RTK Environmental Group, to help protect you and your family from the devastating effects of lead poisoning.
1. Understand the facts about lead paint.
Lead was commonly added to paint used in residences until 1978. And while that was over 40 years ago, it is safe to assume that most older homes contain lead paint. When disturbed, as during renovation work or prep prior to applying new paint, dangerous paint chips and dust containing lead are generated. When they’re inhaled or consumed, they can lead to serious health problems.
2. Have your home tested for lead paint.
If your home was constructed before 1978, it’s crucial to have it tested for lead paint, especially before renovating. Hire an independent, certified testing company that doesn’t conduct abatement, as this is a major conflict of interest.
3. Know the sources of lead poisoning.
Lead dust is the primary cause of lead poisoning. It’s released from any interior or exterior component which gets into the air, water, soil, and onto the floor. Lead dust can also be found on playground equipment, pools, and toys. Other sources of lead are older pipes and plumbing fixtures, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, artificial turf, and more.
4. Take proper precautions when renovating.
Before any renovation, test your home for lead paint, especially if your home was constructed before 1978. Failure to do so can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. And unless you know where the lead is lurking, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. Once the test is conducted, if lead is found, consult a professional for a cleanup plan.
Don’ts for Lead Poisoning Prevention:
1. Don’t assume lead poisoning cannot happen to you.
In reality, many individuals fail to recognize the potential hazards of lead paint lurking within their residences. Whether you reside in a historic 1800s Victorian house or a more modern apartment, if lead paint is present, you and your loved ones are at risk of lead poisoning.
2. Never allow an unlicensed contractor to undertake any work on your home.
It is imperative that the company responsible for your project, whether it’s a straightforward painting task or a comprehensive whole-house renovation, holds certification in lead-safe work practices issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Do not be swayed by any tradesperson claiming that certification is unnecessary; it is, without a doubt, a vital requirement.
In accordance with the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP), any work performed on painted surfaces within a home built before 1978 must adhere to a rigorous protocol. Certified tradespeople are obligated to meticulously document the work they carry out. Furthermore, after the work has been completed, a crucial next step is to engage an environmental testing firm to conduct a secondary lead test, to ensure that your home is safe from lead contamination.
3. Don’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.
While some states mandate lead screening for children under the age of three, in most states, it is up to the discretion of the pediatrician. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises that the decision to test for lead poisoning often depends on your geographic location. The best way for you to know if your child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life.
In sum, lead poisoning is a pervasive issue that affects a significant number of children and families. It is crucial to raise awareness and take proactive steps to prevent lead exposure. By understanding the risks, testing your home for lead, and advocating for your child’s health, you can play a vital role in safeguarding your family from lead poisoning’s devastating effects. During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and beyond, let’s work together to eliminate this preventable childhood disease.