Often referred to as a silent killer, lead is a debilitating toxin hiding in pre-1978 homes and properties. Lead isn’t choosy – it can be found in small cottages and bungalows, as well as grand old homes.
When old lead paint begins to break down and deteriorate, chips and dust can easily be ingested. Children under the age of six are particularly susceptible to the dangers of lead poisoning because their bodies more easily absorb lead. Children often play on floors where lead dust can be most prevalent. And, they put items in their mouths which potentially have lead dust coating and even chew on window sills and eat lead chips.
Ingesting lead increases the lead levels in blood – which affects brain and nervous system activity. THERE IS NO KNOWN SAFE LEVEL OF LEAD IN THE BODY. Lead poisoning often leads to long-term developmental and behavioral problems. Most children affected by lead poisoning show no visible signs. A blood test is the only way to determine if lead is present in your body.
More than 300,000 children in the United States have dangerous blood lead levels and more than 38 million U.S. homes are estimated to still contain lead paint, which was banned in 1978. In Iowa, 1 out of every 14 children tested has elevated levels of lead in their blood. And, more than 50% of the homes in Iowa, both in rural and urban areas, were built before 1960.
Mutual Responsibility for Contractors and Building Owners
Contractors who work on pre-1978 housing need to be educated in the dangers of lead-based paint and on how to safely remove it. The Environmental Protection Agency and the State of Iowa require renovators and remodelers to be certified in lead-safe work practices by 2010.
Many contractors recognize they need to learn the skills necessary to perform their renovation and remodeling tasks using lead-safe practices. Unfortunately, there remain too many contractors who have not made the investment to become certified and are creating higher risk of disrupting lead in their clients’ properties.
Homeowners and Property Owners Need to Educate Themselves
Owning a home or property built before 1978 carries greater risks and challenges as it becomes necessary to remodel and renovate these older properties.
- Ask potential contractors questions so you can assess contractors’ understanding of lead-safe work practices.
- Hire only contractors certified in lead-safe work practices.
- Make sure your contractor provides you with the brochure ‘Lead Poisoning – How To Protect Iowa Families’.