If you live in a home built before 1978 with young children around, you should be aware of the dangers of Lead. The metal Lead is an unnatural substance in the body unlike like iron, copper, or magnesium. Once there, lead is a poisonous toxin in the blood. Anyone can become Lead-poisoned, but children under the age of six and pregnant women are at greatest risk.
Suzy doing poorly in school? Don’t discount the role that living around Lead paint may be playing. Lead exposure in children reduces cognitive function, hindering perception, thinking, reasoning, and remembering. Little Johnny’s aggression bordering on delinquency? Lead exposure has been associated with increased hyperactivity and aggression and has been correlated with higher crime rates in lead contaminated communities. Even small exposures of lead can have long lasting consequences on health and well-being.
Lead in our homes comes mainly from old paint. Before being banned in 1978, all household paint contained Lead. Urban cities are especially susceptible to the Lead hazard because of the number of older homes. Urbanites also tend to live in rented rather than owned dwellings. Rental properties tend to be both older and ill-maintained. Renters have more peeling paint, Lead contaminated dust, and Lead health problems.
It’s been estimated that 9 out of 10 homes in Newark, New Jersey for example are Lead contaminated. Up to 50% of Newark’s children may be affected by Lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health problem facing urban children.
If old paint is undisturbed, there’s no threat. But peeling paint is another matter altogether, especially if young children are present. Did you know paint chips are tasty? They have a sweet, lemony taste little kids may find hard to resist. Lead poisoning occurs most often not from eating paint chips but from repeated inhaling and ingesting small amounts of contaminated dust during hand-to-mouth activities. Children absorb Lead much more easily than adults.
Living with Lead
Lead is everywhere in our environment - a by-product of our country’s heavily industrial past. It can be found in soil, on food, in drinking water, as well as in products we buy especially those manufactured abroad including some toys, makeup, jewelry, and foods.
Lead paint on toys forced Mattel Inc’s Fisher Price division to recall almost a million popular toys in 2007 like Dora the Explorer, Big Bird, Elmo, and Diego character toys manufactured in China. In all, 83 different types of toys were recalled. 2008 was another bad year for Lead in children’s toys.
When a child is discovered to be Lead-poisoned through blood tests, it can become a matter for government intervention. Most states have relocation programs that require a family or more likely, the affected children to move out of their house while Lead contaminants are removed by biohazard experts. That’s how serious Lead exposure is!
Adults don’t escape Lead’s toll on body and mind. Lead-poisoned adults can suffer reproductive health issues, kidney, nervous system, cardiovascular and circulation, intellectual and mental functioning, and gastrointestinal digestive problems. Lead will stay in the body for a long time. Some affected say feeling sluggish and weighed down is an outward sign of the presence of Lead.
Chelation Therapy is the common remedy for removing Lead from the body and thankfully, it’s effective. Chelating products are available in health food stores but check with your healthcare provider to determine if you are suffering from Lead contamination.
Get the Lead Out...Literally
Best practices for dealing with Lead in the home is cleaning. Sweep up visible paint chips from off the floors and window ceils. Wash those surfaces well with soap and water. Wash fresh fruit and produce and food prep areas thoroughly, too.
Be careful about what painted items you bring into your home, especially those intended for young children. Many recalled toys find their way to consignment shops. Check for ‘origin’ marks on toys sold at secondhand stores or yard sales.
When buying new toys, be wary of inexpensive toys found at dollar stores as they may have cut product safety corners to offer super cheap prices.
Take precautions during home repairs, remodeling and repainting projects. You might want to hire professional painters, wear masks, and send the kiddies to Grandma’s if old paint will be disturbed.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) set a national goal of eliminating childhood Lead poisoning by the year 2010. Most states’ Health and Human Services or Community Affairs Departments offer Lead remediation assistance to residents. Although home Lead test kits are available, a Consumer Product Safety Commission study found that most test kits were unreliable and that sophisticated, costly professional testing was needed to determine with reliability the presence of Lead in a home.
So, the ball’s in our court. It’s up to us to protect our children. If you suspect your child has been exposed to dangerous levels of Lead, contact your healthcare provider immediately. If warranted, raise a general Lead concern during your next routine physician visit.
Avoid toys painted with RED paint; this is the most common Lead-contaminated color.