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Protecting Your Family and Home From Lead

February 6th, 2012

Lead is defined as a highly toxic metal found in small amounts of the earth’s crust. Lead and lead compounds have been used in many products including paint, ceramics, pipes, solders, gasoline, batteries, and cosmetics. Today, the most common lead exposures are from lead-based paint, older homes, contaminated soil, household dust, drinking water, lead crystal, and lead-glazed pottery.

Extreme lead exposure has been associated with causing a variety of neurological disorders such as a lack of muscular coordination, convulsions and coma. Exposure to lower lead levels has been linked to changes in children’s mental development and behavior such as hyperactivity, deficits in fine motor function, hand-eye coordination, reaction time, and lowered performance on intelligence tests. Chronic lead exposure in adults results in increased blood pressure, decreased fertility, cataracts, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, and memory or concentration problems.

You can find lead based paint generally in older homes built before 1978. These include homes in the city, suburbs, and country; as well as apartments, single family homes, and private and public housing. The soil surrounding your home can also pick up lead from exterior paint, and remnants of the past use of leaded gas in cars. Any peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead based paint is very dangerous and needs immediate attention.  You can also find lead in areas that go through a lot of wear and tear. These include windows and window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, porches, and fences.  Keep in mind that lead chips and dust settles on surfaces and objects that others touch. It can also get back in the air when you vacuum, sweep, or walk.

The safest way to check your home for lead is to have a professional do the work. The professional will use several methods such as visual inspection of paint condition and location, lab test of paint samples, surface dust test, and the use of a portable fluorescence machine to detect lead. Simply painting over the lead hazard will not be enough. If there is an improper removal of lead it can increase the hazard by spreading it around the house even more, so it is important to hire someone with special training to handle the lead problem.

If you suspect your home might have lead, you can have your family tested through a simple blood test. Blood testing for lead poisoning should be administered for children who are six months to one year old, and for family members that suspect a high level of lead exposure. Other ways to protect your home and family include:

.Cleaning paint chips right away.

.Cleaning floors, window frames, window sills, and surfaces weekly.

. Keeping play areas clean.

. Washing your hands often.

.Cleaning and removing shoes before entering your home.

.Make sure children eat healthy. The better their diet, the less lead absorbed.

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