Prevent Lead Poisoning: Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested, Says the EPA
Protect Your Children By Following These Preventive Do’s and Don’ts
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 24th – 30th
Although lead poisoning is the #1 preventable childhood disease in the US, every year, over 500,000 children under the age of six are diagnosed with lead poisoning. Incredibly, this figure does not include the number of children between the ages of six and eighteen that already suffer from lead poisoning. In addition, many other children have not yet been diagnosed, especially since the numbers of children tested during COVID dropped.
To that extent, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that in the early months of the pandemic, roughly 10,000 children with elevated levels of lead in their blood may have gone undetected. Additionally, the CDC estimates that more than 20 million housing units in the United States contain lead-based paint, which was banned in 1978, so with the stay-at-home orders that were in place for over a year, more children were consistently exposed to lead. About 3.3 million American households have children under 6 years of age who live in homes with lead exposure hazards. Even relatively low levels of lead exposure can impair a child’s cognitive development.
To alert parents that they need to act to protect their children from the permanent and irreversible damage of lead poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Action has designated Oct. 24 – 30 National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. 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. Lead poisoning causes autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lower IQ, ADD, violent tendencies, and behavior and learning problems, among other devastating issues.
The more parents know about lead poisoning, the less likely their children will be harmed. 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 an additive in residential paint until 1978. When disturbed, it is highly toxic and dangerous to your health. Lead paint and lead dust, which forms when lead paint deteriorates, or is chipped away or sanded, both cause lead poisoning. Contrary to what most people think, a child doesn’t have to eat paint chips to get lead poisoning. Most lead dust is invisible, travels through the air, and is very harmful when inhaled. Lead dust is the most common form of lead poisoning.
2. Have your home tested for lead paint, especially if it was built before 1978.
Whether you are planning to renovate or are moving into a new home, have your home tested for lead paint to see if you and your family are at risk. Hire an independent, certified testing company that only conducts testing and does not do abatement, as that is a major conflict of interest.
3. Know the sources of lead poisoning.
Lead paint that is ingested is the primary cause of lead poisoning. It can be in the form of lead paint chips or lead dust released from window frames, doors, stairs, or multiple interior components, or uncontained renovations, which gets into the air, water, soil, and on 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 you start any renovation, whether you hire a contractor or do-it-yourself, have your home tested to see if and where you have lead paint. If your home was built before 1978, chances are that there is lead somewhere. And unless you know where the lead is lurking, you or your contractor can unknowingly release toxic lead dust into the air. If a professional lead inspection firm finds lead remnants in your home, you will likely need a lead cleanup plan.
1. Don’t assume lead poisoning cannot happen to you.
Lead poisoning does not discriminate. Many people believe that lead poisoning occurs only in inner city housing, yet as of the 2010 Census, suburban, owner occupied homes are now the main cause of lead poisoning in the US. Unfortunately, in suburban and rural areas, most people do not even consider the lead paint dangers that may be in their homes. Whether you live in an 1800’s Victorian mansion or a studio apartment in a big city, if your home contains lead paint, you and your family are susceptible to lead poisoning.
2. Never let an unlicensed contractor work on your home, especially if it contains lead paint.
The company that does your work – from a simple painting job to a full-house renovation – must be certified in lead-safe work practices by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Do not let a tradesperson tell you certification is not needed. It is. Under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair, and Paint rule (RRP), all work performed on painted surfaces in a pre-1978 built home must follow a strict protocol. Certified tradespeople have to document the work they perform. Once the work is performed, the next and very important step is to have the environmental testing firm conduct a second lead test to be sure your home is 100 percent lead free.
3. Don’t assume your pediatrician tests your child for lead.
In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. The best way for you to know if you 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.
If you would like to schedule lead testing, give us a call at 800.392.6468 or click here.