You asked, we answered. Here are the top questions and answers on lead, lead paint, and lead poisoning.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning can occur when lead, a heavy metal, enters your system. How does that happen? Usually from ingesting or inhaling lead dust, which is generated when lead-based paint is disturbed, or water and soil are contaminated. Unfortunately, lead poisoning can severely affect both one’s physical and mental development, causing lifelong issues. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Who is most apt to contract lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is prevalent in children. Those younger than 6 years of age are especially vulnerable as they may touch contaminated surfaces then put their fingers in their mouths. But adults who renovate older homes that contain lead-based paint also are susceptible. The good news is that lead poisoning is usually treatable. Chelation therapy, in which chemicals are used to remove heavy metals and other substances from the body, is often a successful way of treating high levels of lead in the blood. Lead poisoning is also preventable, provided one is prudent when renovating a premise or maintaining lead-free or lead-safe conditions.
What are the causes of lead poisoning?
You breathe in lead dust, drink water contaminated by lead, or accidentally consume lead paint chips or particles of contaminated soil. The most common cause of lead poisoning is breathing in lead dust, which is fairly prevalent in soil and homes that were painted prior to 1978 (when paint contained lead). Lead also lurks in other places, including pipes and plumbing fixtures, crystal, old toys and dishes, costume jewelry made in China, and food cans.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
- Learning difficulties
- Weight loss and loss of appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Violent tendencies
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Pain, numbness and/or tingling of the extremities
- Muscle and joint pain
- Memory loss
- High blood pressure
- Decline in mental acuity
- Mood disorders
Why should I test for lead paint?
Because lead poisoning causes permanent neurological and health issues, it’s not something to take lightly. Having a home tested for lead may be critical, especially if you live in an apartment or building constructed before 1978. And, if your home contains older pipes or plumbing fixtures, or if you are planning any demolition or renovation work in a dwelling constructed prior to 1978, you should consider a test. You may also want to consider testing if a neighbor is conducting improper renovations on an older home, as lead dust can spread into neighboring yards and homes. Your health depends on it.
Can lead poisoning cause autism?
Although there are many studies and schools of thought on this issue, there is still no clear answer. What we do know is that lead poisoning can cause autism-like symptoms.
How is lead dust generated and how can I protect my family from it?
Lead dust is produced when lead-based paint is sanded or chipped—usually during renovation work or normal wear and tear. It can come from opening and closing windows that were painted with lead-based paint, and can even travel from a neighbor’s home when renovation work is being done. Lead dust can lurk in your swimming pool, soil, and sandbox, then make its way onto floors, furniture, toys, and hands. To find out if your home or soil has been contaminated by lead dust, call the professionals at RTK to schedule a test.
Why should I test the soil around my home?
What you may not realize is that the soil around your home may be brimming with contaminants, including lead, pesticides, bacteria, and heavy metals. Should a storm like Superstorm Sandy flood your yard, your soil may become contaminated by a toxic sludge that contains fecal matter, bacteria, petroleum, and salt water, among other possible things—not a good recipe for your health. Call the certified environmental inspectors at RTK to be sure your soil is free of environmental hazards.
What is a lead paint disclosure and is it important to have?
The lead paint disclosure is a government-mandated program that requires potential buyers and renters of housing built prior to 1978 to receive information about lead and lead hazards in the residence, prior to becoming obligated to buy or rent, according to the EPA. It also provides the opportunity for an independent lead inspection for buyers, which is highly recommended. Sellers, landlords, and agents are responsible for compliance. What most people don’t realize is that just because a seller says they have no knowledge of lead paint doesn’t mean there isn’t any present. If you are going to buy or rent a home built prior to 1978, your best course of action is to have the dwelling tested for lead paint so that you know what you are getting into.
Are home lead test kits accurate?
While a lead test kit or lead testing swab can usually pick up lead on the surface of a wall or an item, it cannot do what a professional inspector can, which is use X-ray fluorescent (XRF) technology to analyze the layers below the exterior. Lead paint is often painted over. There may not be lead on the surface paint, but the layers beneath can be downright dangerous – especially if they are disturbed during a renovation. Also, quite often, the lead test kit or swab can identify a “false positive” that may cause unnecessary work if the paint actually has no lead present. If you are concerned about lead paint or are looking for the source of lead poisoning, hire a professional to test your home or workplace with an XFR handheld device.
What is the proper protocol for lead paint removal?
The EPA has established a protocol for working with lead paint called the Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program (RRP), which outlines the proper precautions one needs to take when disturbing lead painted surfaces. According to the EPA, the RRP rule requires that companies performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and pre-schools built before 1978 be certified by the EPA, use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers, and follow lead-safe work practices. If you are doing a DIY project that involves disturbing lead paint, the same precautions should be taken.
For more information on lead, please visit our lead information guide.