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Lead Poisoning and Exposure: FAQ

Most people don't think about lead exposure today. They assume they are safe from lead exposure because builders can't use lead-based paint anymore. The truth is that there are still plenty of products on the market that contain lead. There are also older homes that have lead in them.

Because lead poisoning is so dangerous, you must familiarize yourself with the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning. You should also know how to protect your family from lead exposure. Here are some of the more common frequently asked questions about lead.

What is lead?

Lead is a highly toxic metal used for years in products found in and around the home. While there are many sources of lead, the most common place you'll find it is in lead-based paint. Contractors used lead-based paint in many older homes.

In the late 1970s, the EPA learned that lead-based paint threatened human and environmental health. Therefore, the federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier.

In recent years, states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania have implemented stricter rules requiring landlords to secure lead-safe certifications. For example, New Jersey set a blood lead level target of 1.5 micrograms per decilitre for 2020. Anything higher than this would require remediation.

Where can you find lead?

The older your home, the more likely it is to have lead-based paint. You may also find lead in everyday consumer products. You're likely to find lead in the following places:

  • Pre-1978 homes and properties
  • Soil
  • Dust
  • Drinking water
  • Old painted toys
  • Older furniture
  • Food or liquid stored in lead-glazed containers
  • Folk remedies containing lead

It's not uncommon to find lead in peeling paint or painted window sills. Consider immediate remediation if you suspect lead anywhere in your home or office. This is true even if you find small amounts of lead. FindLaw discusses where lead can be found.

Do builders still use lead in new homes?

The federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in homes in 1978. However, according to OSHA, construction workers still handle lead in many projects. Some of the more common uses of lead in the construction industry include:

  • Steel structures, specifically in their coating
  • Roofing materials
  • Linings of tanks
  • Electrical conduits

If you work in this industry, it's essential that you see your healthcare provider and get blood tests frequently to test for lead poisoning. You may be at a higher risk of developing lead poisoning. It would help if you also took special precautions at work and at home. You don't want dust or lead particles on your work clothes to enter your house.

What types of products contain lead?

Numerous products contain lead. You need to be aware of these items to avoid unnecessary sources of lead exposure.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), you can still find lead in the following items:

  • Motor vehicle batteries
  • Ceramics and pottery
  • Ammunition and firing ranges
  • Leaded gasoline
  • Leaded glass
  • Stained glass
  • Lead solder
  • Cosmetics
  • Garden hoses
  • Old books
  • Paint
  • Some tap water

The federal government has banned the use of lead paint in home construction. However, that doesn't mean all use of lead paint in home construction has stopped. Take extra precautions if you have any lead hazards in your home or business.

Why is lead dangerous?

Lead is a dangerous substance, especially for young children who are at high risk. If not detected early, children with high levels of lead can suffer from damage to the brain and nervous system. Lead exposure can also cause behavioral problems, slowed growth, hearing problems, and headaches.

Wash your children's hands often. Also, warn them about the dangers of lead and remove any lead-based products from their reach.

Although less susceptible to lead poisoning than children, adults can suffer from:

  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Other reproductive problems, found in both men and women
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

What injuries can lead cause?

Lead poisoning can affect various parts of the body. You should know the symptoms to recognize them in yourself or your kids. Some of the symptoms of lead poisoning include:

  • Headaches
  • Weakness
  • A metallic taste in your mouth
  • Poor appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Joint pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Anemia

If you're experiencing any of these symptoms, visit your doctor and get a blood lead test. The greatest risk is for pregnant women. They tend to be at the most significant risk of health issues.

Elevated blood lead levels can lead to several adverse health effects. Some of the adverse health effects include:

  • Brain damage, including encephalopathy
  • Nerve damage
  • Problems with the digestive tract
  • Blood disease
  • Liver damage
  • Kidney damage

If left untreated, lead poisoning can lead to long-term disabilities and health problems. If your kids exhibit any of these symptoms, take them to see their healthcare provider.

Why are children more susceptible to lead poisoning than adults?

Babies and young children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because they constantly put their hands or other objects in their mouths. Lead dust can enter the body this way. Lead can also enter the body when someone eats paint chips or bare soil containing lead.

You can also ingest lead dust, especially during property renovation projects that disturb painted surfaces. Also, children are more susceptible to lead poisoning because their growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

How does lead affect an unborn baby during pregnancy?

If a pregnant woman ingests or exposes herself to lead, it can harm her unborn child. The lead in the mother's blood can carry over into the placenta. This can cause serious health issues for her unborn baby.

Some of the problems caused by lead exposure include:

  • Problems with organ development
  • Behavioral and learning disabilities
  • Premature births
  • Low birth weight
  • Miscarriage

If you're pregnant, talk to your doctor about potential lead exposure.

How can I protect my home and family from the dangers of lead?

If you suspect that there is lead in your home or that your family has been exposed to lead, there are some steps you can take to ensure their protection.

First, measure your children's lead levels through a simple blood test. Second, contact a qualified professional to assess the lead content of the paint in your home and have them assess the risks of severe lead exposure.

See the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Lead Information Center for a list of contacts in your area. Visit Protecting Your Family and Home from the Dangers of Lead for more information.

How do I get a lead inspection for my home?

If you want a lead inspection done in your home, you can do it in several ways. You can contact your local municipality or county and see if they can refer you to a certified lead inspection company, or you can search for a local lead testing company on your own.

When you arrange for your inspection, ensure the company does the proper assessment. Some jurisdictions require you to have a dust-wipe test done, while others allow for a visual examination instead.

What are the lead laws in the U.S.?

There are several federal laws and regulations regarding lead products. The EPA has issued numerous regulations, including the Toxic Substances Control Act and the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992.

The federal government has also passed special laws regarding lead. One of the primary regulations is the Lead and Copper Rule, which you can find in the Code of Federal Regulations.

What should I do if I think I have lead poisoning?

If you or a loved one have experienced any dangerous symptoms or unusual medical conditions that might be caused by lead exposure, you should seek immediate medical attention. If you've used products containing lead or were exposed to lead in your home, meet with an experienced personal injury attorney to discuss your options and to protect your legal rights.

Whom can I sue if a loved one becomes sick from lead exposure?

You may have a legal claim if you or a family member become sick from lead exposure. The best way to know is to talk to a personal injury lawyer near you. Every case is unique. Your attorney won't know which parties you can pursue until they review the facts of your case.

However, you may have a viable claim against any of the following:

  • Manufacturers, retailers, and distributors of lead-based products
  • The company that renovated or built your home
  • Any other party that caused your lead exposure

Ideally, your attorney will resolve your claim with the defendant's insurance company.

What kind of damages can I demand if I prevail?

If you win your lawsuit, your attorney will demand compensation. In most of these cases, plaintiffs can recover some or all of the following types of damages:

  • Medical bills
  • Future medical expenses
  • Property damage
  • Lost wages
  • Lost future income
  • Pain and suffering

Most of these cases are settled out of court. When you meet with your personal injury attorney for your free case evaluation, they'll better understand what your claim is worth.

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