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.

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.

Flooding & Water Damage Lead Soil and Water

Eat your way to health

Eat your way to health

We really are what we eat. Although nutrition cannot prevent young children from being poisoned by lead, certain foods can keep lead from being absorbed by the body.

Before we get to the food, it’s important to remember that more than 500,000 children each year are poisoned by lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they span all economic groups. The only way to truly keep your children safe is to have your pre-1978 built home tested for lead. (Lead was banned from paint in 1978.) Hire only a licensed lead inspector to do the testing. In addition, have your children’s blood tested for lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning causes irreparable brain damage in children younger than seven. And although lead has been poisoning children for decades, it is not an old issue: It is here, it is now, and until every pre-1978 home or apartment has had all the lead removed, it is here to stay.

In the meantime, if you live in a pre-1978 build home, make sure your children’s diets are rich in:

Calcium keeps lead from being absorbed in the body. In addition, it helps make teeth and bones strong. Foods to include: low-fat milk, yogurt, tofu, cheese; foods made with milk (pudding, macaroni and cheese, pizza, cream soup); and green leafy vegetables (collards, spinach, kale, mustard greens, broccoli).

Iron also helps keep lead from being absorbed by the body. Foods to include: lean meats (beef, chicken, pork, goat); fish (sardines, tuna); cereals (Cream of Wheat, cereal with added iron, Infant cereal with added iron); beans (kidney, black); peanut butter; and dried fruits (raisins, dates, prunes).

Vitamin C helps iron do its lead-absorbing job. Foods to include: oranges, grapefruit, mangos, green peppers, tomatoes; and juices (orange, grapefruit, tomato).

Not only will these lead-blocking foods fight lead poisoning, your children will receive many other health benefits as well.


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.



How much lead dust is too much?

A speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand is enough to poison a child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But is the CDC too lenient in its standard for the level of lead allowed in the blood?

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.

Lead Soil and Water

Study Shows Lead Exposure Lowers Test Scores

A recent Duke University study of Connecticut school children found even small levels of lead exposure — less than the levels the Environmental Protection Agency considers safe — significantly reduced their test scores.

Researchers discovered that the greater the exposure to lead, the lower the Connecticut Mastery Scores. What is most alarming is that children with lead levels lower than the EPA’s established 10 microgram minimum were doing worse on tests than children who had never been exposed to lead. In addition, African-American children were more likely to experience lead poisoning from paint residue, dust or other sources by age 7 than other children. The Childen’s Environmental Health Initiative at Duke found similar results in a study it conducted two years ago of school children in North Carolina.

Duke researchers reviewed the cases of 35,000 Connecticut children whose blood tests showed lead exposure before age 7, then linked them to their fourth-grade reading and math scores on the 2008 and 2009 standardized Connecticut Mastery Tests.

Francesca Provenzano, health program supervisor for the Connecticut Department of Health told the Associated Press: “It’s compelling evidence. I think it provides even greater awareness to parents, medical providers and advocates that lead poisoning is a serious issue and prevention is key.”

Although lead poisoning cases have dropped significantly in recent years, the Duke study is a reminder that this toxic metal is still poisoning children. The only way to find out if your child has been poisoned by lead is through a blood test. The most accurate way to find out if your home or business contains lead is to have state licensed lead inspectors test the structure.

Lead was banned in paint in 1978. Unfortunately, structures built pre-1978 probably contain lead paint. Disturbing lead paint – even simply opening or closing a window – can send lead dust flying through the air. Lead dust is the leading cause of lead poisoning in the three most at-risk groups: children, pregnant women and pets. But everyone is at risk and needs to take precautions, especially during renovations.

The Centers for Disease Control says that a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, is enough to poison a child.



The Buzz on Lead Dust – Fact vs. Fiction?

We’ve been hearing things about lead dust lately. Alarmingly, a lot of what we are hearing is misinformation. We thought it was time to clear the air.

Statement 1: For lead exposure to be really bad, the actual dust must be truly airborne so that it can really get into your lungs.

FALSE! Of course you can get lead poisoning from breathing in lead dust. But when lead dust travels through the air, it settles in soil and water, and blows inside your home and even onto neighboring properties. If you touch something that has lead dust on it and then put your hand to your mouth, you can ingest it. This is especially dangerous for babies and children who crawl and play on the floor, and have their hands in their mouths and eyes all the time.

Statement 2: Flakes of paint will do a fine job of containing the lead dust.

FALSE! Let’s think about that logic – it makes no sense. Whether you grind your coffee beans or keep them whole, it’s still coffee. Even if lead is in a paint chip, it’s still lead. Every time a paint chip breaks, get stepped on, sanded, or even pressed into garbage bags, dangerous lead dust is released.


Statement 3: A speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child.

TRUE! The slightest bit of lead dust could make you sick. The amount of lead dust the EPA considers unsafe for kids is equal to a small packet of sweetener sprinkled over one-third of a football field. Think about what a minuscule amount that is!


Statement 4: If lead dust is flying outside, we are breathing in much less of it than we would indoors, therefore it is not dangerous.

FALSE! Unless you live in an airtight, hermetically sealed home that has no traffic in or out, this just is not feasible. Lead dust comes through windows, doors, chimneys, heating and cooling systems, and is tracked in on shoes, car tires, clothing, and more. If there is a fire in a nearby home, you can smell the burning scent inside your house. Lead dust particles are microscopic, and travel the same way. They are just as dangerous if they are being produced outside as they are inside. The same RRP (Renovation, Repair and Painting) precautions should be taken, inside or outside, when working around lead paint and lead dust.

If you have any questions about renovating lead paint or the dangers of lead dust, don’t assume. Find out for sure. Have a lead test done to ensure the safety of you, your family and your neighbors.