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Lead Dust is Lethal

When most people think of lead poisoning, they attribute it to paint chips peeling off tenement walls. But lead poisoning can occur anywhere — in suburbs and rural areas, as well as cities because often it is caused by lead dust, which results when lead-based paint is sanded or chipped, usually during a renovation. People of all income levels and backgrounds are at risk.

Lead dust is the leading cause of lead poisoning in the three most at-risk groups — children, pregnant women and pets – and its effects can be devastating.

The amount of lead dust the Environmental Protection Agency considers unsafe for kids is equal to a small packet of sweetener sprinkled over one-third of a football field.

Lead Dust’s Irreparable Impact

What harm can lead dust actually cause?

  • In pregnant women: it can affect the baby’s cognitive development, reduction in neonatal weight, and it can increase the mother’s blood pressure.
  • In children: it can cause brain damage, autism-like symptoms, loss of IQ, learning disabilities, hearing loss, slowed growth, headaches, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, attention deficit disorder, ADHD, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems. As children grow older: delinquent and antisocial behavior.
  • With everyone else: lead dust can lead to reproductive problems, high blood pressure and hypertension, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain.
  • In dogs: convulsions or fits, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain and bizarre behavior.
  • Cats: vomiting and diarrhea.
  • Birds: death.

A 2011 study by the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative at Duke University reports that Connecticut school children that ingested even small amounts of lead early in life did worse on fourth grade standardized tests than their counterparts who had never been exposed.

Where Lead Dust Lurks

The Centers for Disease Control says that lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, is enough to poison a child. The problem is you may not be able to see the dust.

If your home or apartment was built before 1978, the year the use of lead paint was banned, chances are lead-based paint is present. That means, if the paint layers are sanded or chipped, lead dust will result.

Lead-based paint is usually found around windows and doors, and on stairs, railings, banisters, porches and fences. By simply opening and closing a window harboring lead-based paint, lead dust can be released, and that can cause irreparable damage to those breathing it in.

A straightforward sanding job can unleash dust in your home as well. If you open windows while sanding, or sand your home’s exterior, lead dust can be released and travel through the air, coating the soil on your property and neighboring lots.

This explains why outdoors, lead dust is found in soil, sandboxes, on sidewalks, porch floors, swing sets, outdoor toys, and even athletic fields. Easily tracked indoors, lead dust can coat floors, furniture, blankets, toys and hands, and eventually wind up in a child’s mouth.


Water should be tested once each year for total coliform bacteria. (CDC)

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