Health Lead

New Lead Standards Spark Confusion, Concern Among Parents

New Lead Standards Spark Confusion, Concern Among Parents

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention took a monumental step in protecting children from lead poisoning by cutting in half the “action level” of lead in the blood stream. Now, any child (age 1 – 5) with more than 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in the blood is considered at risk.

Although almost 400,000 more children are now considered lead poisoned in the U.S., it means that early action will help us prevent serious health problems and save lives. Even small levels of lead exposure can irreversibly influence children’s development, from ADHD and autism-like symptoms to brain damage and lower IQ.

The other part of the announcement drew harsh criticism –the federal funding for lead poisoning was slashed 94% this year by Congress. So what does that mean for parents, and how are we supposed to protect our kids with limited funding?

Unfortunately, the burden is on us and we need to take action. Here are a few important tips:

1. Prevention is the key – test the house.

Once a child has lead poisoning, it becomes expensive and dangerous. Have your home tested by a certified independent inspector for lead paint. If you find that your home contains lead paint, they will provide you with a comprehensive abatement plan to remove the lead before it becomes a health issue.

2. Have your children tested for lead.

Only about 53% of pediatricians will do a routine lead test at age one. (Read more here on pediatricians and lead testing.) As a rule of thumb, all children should be tested at age one, and again at age two. If you live in a high-risk area, it may be more often. If you are unsure if your doctor performs the blood test routinely, ask and request that it be done.

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 and doors, which gets into the air, water, soil, and on the floor. Lead dust can also be found on playground equipment and toys. Other sources of lead are older pipes, stained glass, toys, pottery glazes, leaded crystal, jewelry, antiques, folk remedies, food cans, and more.

To download the EPA’s brochure “Lead in Your Home: A Parent’s Reference Guide” click here.

To schedule a lead inspection, click here.

Healthy Home Lead

Lead-Tainted Products: Not Child’s Play

Lead-Tainted Products: Not Child’s Play

We often blog about lead-based paint, and how improperly remodeling a pre-1978 built home can create lead dust and easily poison a child. But there are numerous other ways lead can enter a home. Today, we look at the sources — in addition to lead paint — that most affect children. Tomorrow, we look at lead from the whole-house perspective.


Lead is still widely used in other countries, and every now and then — even with our strict consumer-protection laws banning lead in toys — imported toys containing lead are found in the United States. To reduce these risks, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission issues recalls of toys containing lead, and thankfully these recalls are quickly reported in the media. Unfortunately, if the child has been playing with the toy for even a day, he or she might be poisoned by lead.

More bad news: Lead in plastics has not been banned, and is often used in toys to soften the plastic and make it more flexible. But when plastic is exposed to substances such as sunlight, air, and detergents, the chemical bond between the lead and plastics breaks down and forms lead dust.

And be wary of painted toys, passed down through the generations. If made before 1978, there is a good chance there is lead in the paint. Do not let your children play with these toys.

Toy jewelry

In 2006 a 6-year-old child died after swallowing a heart-shaped metallic charm containing lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Just wearing the jewelry will not cause a child’s blood lead level to spike into the dangerous range, but why take the chance? A speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand can poison a child. And we all know that children, especially those younger than 6 who are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning, love to put objects in their mouths.

The CDC asks parents to search their children’s toys and jewelry boxes for metal jewelry and throw it all away.


Lead has been found in candy imported from Mexico. Certain candy ingredients, specifically chili powder and tamarind, may be a source of lead exposure. In addition, lead may get into the candy during manufacturer from improper handling processes, and the ink used on the candy wrappers contains lead, and often leaches into the candy.

If you would like to schedule a home lead inspection, click here.



A New Take on Lead Testing

Most doctors say a blood test is the only way to determine lead poisoning. That’s partially true. Actually, the biological half-life of lead in the blood is about 36 days, which means that a blood test is only an indicator of the extent of recent lead exposure. According to the Bone Lead Measurement Facility at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, blood-lead levels – the standard for determining lead poisoning in this country – reflect chronic exposure only if exposure is constant.

Consider this scenario: You lived in a home or apartment that was built before 1978 and were unknowingly poisoned by the lead dust created by the home’s lead paint. A year later you move to a newly built home, hear about toxic lead dust, and decide to have your blood lead levels tested. Chances are your blood lead levels will fall below levels of concern.

But you are still being poisoned because, according to Mount Sinai, the lead has traveled, hiding in your bones and teeth where it has a long half-life of 20 to 30 years. Even more disturbing is that in times of physiologic stress, including pregnancy and lactation, the stored lead in your bones and teeth can travel back to your blood and affect your unborn child or infant.

Why should you care? Lead poisoning is a major public health problem in the United States, claiming victims from all walks of life, not only the inner city. In children, lead poisoning causes brain damage, ADD/ADHD, autism-like symptoms, loss of IQ, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems, and as children age, delinquent and antisocial behavior. In men, lead poisoning causes decreased sex drive, sterility, and impotence; and in women, decreased fertility, the ability to sustain pregnancy, stillbirth, miscarriage, low-birth weight and pre-term delivery.

Eileen E. Brinker, an artist from Utah, detailed her lead poisoning ordeal in her blog, “from an otherwise sane perspective.” Brinker recently discovered she was poisoned by lead, which happened years ago when she worked for a real estate firm and spent her days sanding lead-based paint in the company’s rentals. Her list of medical issues include rotting teeth, headaches, and bouts of mental illness throughout her life

So what to do? The first line of defense is to have your pre-1978 built home tested for lead paint by a certified environmental testing company. Once you know where lead is hiding, you can take corrective steps to rid your home of lead. Next, schedule a blood test, especially if your lead exposure is recent. For long-term lead exposure testing, the bone lead X-ray fluorescence test at Mount Sinai is the only option available now, a relatively new technique for measuring long-term lead exposure.


Nigerian Lead Disaster Comes Home

The headlines out of northern Nigeria scream: Since March 2010, 400 children dead, poisoned by lead dust, and thousands more in need of immediate medical attention because of lead poisoning.

The source of the lead dust is the area’s gold mines. Ore-crushing techniques are releasing contaminated lead dust into the air, and these toxic lead particles are clinging to clothing and buildings, and infiltrating water supplies.

The international watchdog Human Rights Watch said last week that this is the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history. Although clean-up efforts have taken place in some areas, and charities such as Doctors Without Borders have been treating victims, Human Rights Watch says more urgent work needs to be done. It estimates that will cost $4 million to clean up the toxic lead and secure the gold mines.

The Nigerian tragedy should alert everyone to the danger of lead dust poisoning, not just abroad but right here at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 500,000 children under the age of six are poisoned by lead dust in the United States each year. Lead poisoning causes irreversible brain damage in children.

What’s more, a new federal report from an advisory committee of the CDC debunks the myth that lead poisoning affects only the poor. The report states that the adverse health effects of blood poisoning “do not appear to be confined to lower socioeconomic status populations.” That should be a wake-up call for all homeowners, especially those living in the Northeast, where twice as many homes have lead hazards than housing in the South and West.

Consider Westchester County, New York, which has, according to the County Department of Planning, 368,498 housing units. Of these, 307,693, or 80 percent, were built prior to 1980 – and it’s safe to assume most of these homes contain lead paint. Although lead was banned from paint manufacture in 1978, surplus lead-based paint was still on the market years after 1978. In addition, marine varnish is still manufactured with lead, and many homeowners use marine varnish in their homes because they think it is more durable than interior varnish.

Only education, testing and remediation will prevent lead poisoning. RTK Environmental Group’s educational campaign, Bust Lead Dust , was created to increase public awareness of the threat that lurks within their homes. Our goal is to prevent more children from the senseless exposure to an unnecessary health risk. Please join our campaign.

Lead Soil and Water

Lead Dust Poisoning: It Can Happen to Adults, Too!

When most people talk about lead dust poisoning, they emphasize the stunning number of children — 500,000 children younger than 6 — who are diagnosed with lead poisoning each year.

But adults can be poisoned, too.

The problem is that adults aren’t screened for lead poisoning, and most have no idea that their ailments are caused by exposure to lead dust. Last week, a 50-year-old man posted his recent “ah-ha moment” on, a question and answer Web site that is monitored by doctors throughout the United States.

The man’s epiphany occurred when he attended a class on lead awareness. In the late 1980s through the 1990s, the man was a sandblaster who was exposed to lead paint and dust numerous times. Back then, protective clothing was often never used, especially during warm weather. Since then, he has suffered from high blood pressure, bowel pain with diverticulitis, memory and vision loss, headaches, muscle and joint pain, and ringing in his left ear.

His question to Just Answer’s medical team: “Were my illnesses caused by lead dust poisoning?” The answer was a resounding yes, that all his illnesses could be directly linked to lead dust poisoning.

What makes this man’s question so poignant is that since 1987, not one of his many doctors made the connection between his medical issues and lead dust poisoning caused by his job. And just like children, the damage lead dust poisoning caused him is irreversible.

In the case of this man, his lead poisoning is directly traced to his exposure to lead-based paint, which is still present in most homes built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned. If you live in a pre-1978 built home, know that simply opening and closing a window or door can disturb lead-based paint. If you have never had your home tested for lead paint, it is wise to do so by a professional environmental testing company that will be able to pinpoint where your lead paint is lurking.

If you are planning any renovation, from a simple painting job to a major renovation, have your home tested for lead. Additionally, hire tradespeople certified in lead-safe work practices under the Environmental Protection Agency’s Renovation, Repair & Painting rule.


Bust Lead Dust!

A federal advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the level of acceptable blood lead levels (BLL) in children be lowered from 10 ug/dl to 5 ug/dl. By lowering the level just 5 ug/dls, the official count of children poisoned by lead each year leaps from 250,000 to 450,000 — a stunning statistic.

Why is this so important? It demonstrates that we as a country have not been diligent enough in the fight against lead poisoning. The committee’s report proves that children with BLLs as low as 5 ug/dls suffer from behavioral problems, including ADD/ADHD, in addition to lower IQs, which affect academic achievement. In addition, the committee reports that the adverse health effects of low-level BLLs extend beyond cognitive function to include cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine impairment.

The committee recommends that primary lead poisoning prevention must start in the pediatrician’s office, beginning with counseling and environmental assessments. Damage caused by lead poisoning is irreversible, so if there is any chance a house or apartment ever had lead paint on its walls it should be tested immediately, and the children who live in the house should be tested for lead. The committee is also recommending that if a child has an elevated BLL, he or she immediately be placed on a diet high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.

The committee also recommends that lead poisoning prevention education be extended to pregnant women, so they understand the importance of living in a lead-free environment. Even unborn children can be poisoned by lead.

Lead was banned as an additive to paint in 1978, but it’s safe to assume that most homes built before 1978 still contain lead-based paint. Even if layers of non-leaded paint are covering the lead-based paint, children can still be poisoned from the dust generated each time a window or door is opened or closed. Additionally, marine varnish is still manufactured with lead as an additive, and many homeowners use this varnish in their homes because they think it wears better than interior varnishes.

The goal of primary lead poisoning prevention is to ensure that all homes become lead free. That means that every home built before 1978 must be tested for lead paint, because testing is the only way to determine if remnants of lead-based paint still exist. The CDC’s Healthy People 2010 initiative has set a 10-year goal to end childhood lead poisoning. Only eight years left to make that goal. So many homes to test. So many children to test.

To help spread the word, Bust Lead Dust — — is an educational campaign to educate the public about the dangers of lead dust poisoning. This blog is written by RTK Environmental Group, sponsors of the Bust Lead Dust campaign.

Our next post will discuss the diet every lead-poisoned child should be eating.



National call to test homes for lead!

There’s a renewed effort in the United States to have every home built before 1978 tested for lead.

The interest stems from a recently released report from an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stresses the importance of preventing children from living in homes with possible lead hazards. The committee says there is no such thing as an acceptable level of lead in the blood of children, and that testing a child for lead poisoning — although important — is often too late to reverse the damage. Any amount of lead in the blood can cause irreparable harm to a child, including autism-like symptoms, ADD/ADHD, tendency to violence, poor motor skills, and lowered IQs.

The committee writes in the report: “Prevention requires that we reduce environmental exposures from soil, dust, paint and water, before children are exposed to these hazards.”

The committee also emphasizes that although low-income children are poisoned more frequently by lead than other children, lead poisoning spans all socio-economic strata. Even in middle- and high-income homes, where there are no signs of peeling paint, children are still poisoned by lead dust.

Need more convincing? A recent study conducted by the Tulane School of Public Health discovered nearly two-thirds of all New Orleans homes contain dangerous levels of lead. The study found the presence of lead in homes in all neighborhoods, without regard for race or income. Clearly, lead problems are not confined to urban homes.

Bottom line: If you live in a home built before 1978, when lead paint was banned for residential use, have your home tested for lead. According to the CDC, a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child. Simply opening or closing a window or door can send lead dust flying through the air. And any renovation, from a simple painting job to a major home overhaul, requires the services of tradesman and contractors certified in lead-safe work practices under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair & Painting Rule.

The Tulane study blames reckless renovation and disregard of lead-safe work practices in repairing and demolishing homes after Hurricane Katrina for the amount of lead found in homes throughout New Orleans.

Bust Lead Dust is a campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of lead dust poisoning. It is chockfull of important information every person living in a pre-1978 built home or apartment needs to read.

Our next post will discuss the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations to lower blood lead levels in children.


Health Lead

Angry? Restless? Lead Poisoning Could Be The Problem.

Adults often downplay the harmful effect of exposing children to lead in the home, especially those adults who grew up in a home or apartment built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from residential use in the United States. They say: “Look at me. I’m fine. And I grew up when paint always contained lead.”

Testing vs. Remediation

Why independent environmental testing can save you money

At first blush, it might seem more efficient and economical to hire an environmental testing company that will test for environmental toxins in your home, water and soil – lead, mold, asbestos, radon — and then remove those toxins.

Health Lead

How lead endangers an unborn child

From the moment a woman discovers she is pregnant, her future child’s development takes center stage. Pre-natal health becomes paramount. But if she lives in a home or apartment constructed before 1978, she unwittingly might be subjecting her unborn child to lead poisoning.

Lead exists in every neighborhood, not just the inner city. It is found most commonly in paint and dust created by disturbing that paint in older homes, as well as in soil and tap water. If a pregnant woman breathes in or swallows the lead detritus, she can pass the toxic substance on to her unborn child. Unfortunately, just opening and closing a window can send lead dust flying through the air, easily inhaled by anyone in the vicinity.

Lead in the body of a pregnant woman can:
• Put her at risk for miscarriage;
• Cause premature birth and low birth weight;
• Adversely affect the fetus’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system;
• Cause learning or behavior problems, including autism-like symptoms, brain damage, lowered IQ, and ADD/ADHD, after the child is born.

Here’s an action plan that every pregnant woman living in a pre-1978 built dwelling should take:
• Have a blood test to determine if there is lead in your body;
• Have your home tested for lead by an environmental testing company. For any renovation, even a simple painting job, test your home before renovation to pinpoint where lead lurks, and after renovation to be sure all traces of lead are gone.
• Leave your home when it is cleaned, painted or remodeled.
• Talk to your doctor if you have the urge to eat soil or clay, a condition called pica. If you have pica, it is imperative to have the soil around your home tested by an environmental testing company.