It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to educate yourself on lead poisoning and have your children tested, especially if you live in a home that was built before 1978. Lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among children, but about half a million kids in the United States have dangerous levels of lead in their blood.
The most common way lead gets into our bodies is from dust in older homes and buildings and hobbies like reloading and making bullets. The dust comes from deteriorating lead-based paint and contaminated soil that gets tracked into the places we live and work. Older homes and buildings are the most common places for exposure because of lead-based paint, but the metal also can be found in soil and water and is used to make batteries, bullets and metal products, such as pipes.
Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978. More than half of the homes in Idaho were built before 1978 and could have lead-based paint in them.
Lead poisoning is more dangerous for children. Their growing bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the metal’s damaging effects. It is estimated that dozens of children in Idaho have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies; they need to be tested and treated.
The good news is that lead poisoning is treatable and preventable. But if it’s not eliminated entirely or detected early, health effects in children can include hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, learning disabilities, lowered IQ, speech delays and hearing impairment.
Adults can suffer from impaired hearing and vision, reproductive problems, muscle and joint pain, nerve disorders and memory and concentration problems.
You should consider getting your family tested if you live in an older home with peeling or chipping paint or you’ve recently remodeled an older home, live near or recreate near a lead smelter or mine site, or suspect exposure to other sources of lead (toys, pottery, lead sinkers). If you don’t know if there is lead-based paint in your house, you can have a lead inspection and a risk assessment done by an EPA-certified firm.
What can you do to limit exposure?
- If you’re going to remodel an older home, hire workers from EPA-certified firms so lead paint is handled in a safe way.
- Damp-mop floors, damp-wipe surfaces, and frequently wash your child’s hands, pacifiers and toys.
- Keep children from chewing on window sills or other painted surfaces.
- Immediately clean up paint chips and peeling paint inside and outside the house.
- Treat your children to a diet high in iron and calcium to help reduce the amount of lead their bodies absorb.