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The Dangers of Lead: Safeguarding Your Home and Family

Most people today know using lead-based paint in newer homes is illegal. This was not the case before 1978. According to the Washington Department of Health, many old houses, especially those with porches, were loaded with lead. Most people with homes built before then have tried to remove lead from their homes. The same is true for people who have done renovations on their older property.

Once the warnings about lead poisoning gained national attention decades ago, people became more proactive about avoiding lead. This is especially the case where children are involved.

In this section, we will discuss why lead exposure is so dangerous. We will also describe short-term and long-term solutions to protect your family. From using lead-safe paint to removing all lead dust and chipping paint, this guide will provide helpful tips to keep your family safe.

Is There Lead in Your Drinking Water?

Some homeowners' pipes contain lead. Some plumbers solder pipes together, and solder contains high lead levels. If you use well water, you're also at risk. Given soil contamination, your water may have a high lead concentration.

If you discover that your drinking water is contaminated, follow the steps outlined below:

  • Find out how much lead is in your water
  • Flush your piping system
  • Use filters for drinking water
  • Replace your pipes
  • Switch to bottled water for drinking and for preparing food

You may think this is extreme. It can also be expensive. However, it may be the only way to have clean, cold water free of lead.

Why Is Lead So Dangerous?

Lead exposure is dangerous to both children and adults. It is particularly toxic for pregnant women. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), nearly a million people die yearly from lead poisoning.

Adults are at risk of lead exposure in several ways. First, there are a lot of products that contain lead. Second, specific processes, such as recycling and mining, release lead toxins into the air. You can breathe in lead dust while sanding furniture or stripping your walls.

When adults encounter high levels of lead, they're at risk of developing the following:

  • High blood pressure
  • Cardiovascular issues
  • Kidney damage
  • Brain damage
  • Liver damage
  • Bone marrow damage
  • Joint pain

You should check your lead levels if you notice any of these issues. Over time, lead poisoning gets worse and causes long-term health issues and even death.

Special Dangers for Children

For kids, it can be even worse. Kids are quick to put anything into their mouths. They're also a lot more curious than adults. They are likelier to eat a paint chip or breathe in lead dust. When this happens, they can become quite ill.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), kids with a lead level over 3.5 micrograms per decilitre are at risk of lead poisoning. These levels can cause brain development issues and damage to the nervous system.

Pregnant women must avoid lead at all costs. Studies have shown that lead poisoning and lead exposure can cause the following problems for pregnant women:

  • Miscarriage
  • Low birth weight
  • Stillbirth
  • Premature delivery

If you or your child inhales or ingests lead, seek medical attention immediately. Below, we'll offer other ways you can protect your family and keep them safe from lead poisoning.

Short-Term Solutions

You must take specific remedial steps when encountering lead in your home or business. It's the only way to prevent blood lead levels from reaching dangerous heights.

Some of the steps you can take in the short term include:

  • Clean up paint chips, chipping paint, and flaking paint
  • Planting grass
  • Have a contractor remove lead-based paint
  • Go to your healthcare provider and get a lead blood test

Some think they can remove lead from their paint with a heat gun. While this is technically true, it's dangerous. Your best bet is to hire a professional certified lead abatement contractor to remove any lead hazards in your house permanently. Even if your older home is in good condition, you have no idea if there's lead in the paint.

Long-Term Prevention Methods

Once you've removed the immediate lead hazards, you must think long-term. That's the best way to avoid the adverse health effects of lead. One of the essential things you must do is remove items containing lead from your house. This includes stained glass, leaded crystal glassware, older toys, certain cosmetics, and lead-based jewelry.

There are several other long-term solutions you must consider. Some of these prevention methods include the following:

  • Get your children's lead levels measured through a simple blood test kit. It is best to seek the advice of your doctor or healthcare professional.
  • Contact a qualified professional to assess the lead content of the paint in your home and the risks of severe lead exposure. Hiring a professional ensures the work is safe, reliable, and effective. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's National Lead Information Center offers a list of contacts in your area.
  • According to the EPA, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has worked to ban the use of lead in children's toys and jewelry. They also provide families with information on other products that contain lead.

Take precautions to protect your family around the home by doing the following:

  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly using a mop, sponge, or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. An important note: Never mix ammonia and bleach products as they can form a dangerous gas.
  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty and dusty areas.
  • Wash children's hands often, especially before meals and bedtimes.
  • Keep play areas clean.
  • Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep young children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Shower and change clothes before coming home if you work with lead on the job. Launder lead-infested work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat foods high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
  • Plant grass to cover bare soil.
  • Hire a certified lead abatement contractor to remove any lead-based paint hazards permanently.

If you follow these simple steps, you should be able to keep yourself and your family safe from sources of lead. If you believe there is lead in your home and aren't sure what to do, contact your local health department. They can provide you with immediate assistance.

You may also have an urban development planning committee in your area that can help. These agencies can recommend a lead-safe certified contractor in your town. They can visit your home and do a thorough risk assessment. 

For any other issues, especially life-threatening ones, consider speaking with an environmental attorney as soon as possible. 

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