At very low levels of exposure in children, lead causes reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, impaired growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, insomnia, and a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral problems. At low levels, lead poisoning may not present identifiable symptoms, and a blood test is the only way to know if a child is poisoned. At very high levels of exposure, lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.
How Much Lead Does It Take?
Only 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood will poison a child. An easy way to visualize this is:
- A deciliter of liquid is about 1/2 of a cup.
- A packet of common sweetener (pink or blue) is 1 gram.
- There are one million micrograms in a gram.
- Divide one sweetener packet into a million piles.
- Now, discard all but 5 "piles," that's 5 micrograms.
- Mix the 5 "piles" into a 1/2 cup of liquid.
This is what little amount it takes to poison a child.
Most children are poisoned by ingesting household dust that contains lead. Invisible lead dust is just as hazardous as paint chips. This dust can be created by friction --- the opening of windows or the rubbing of a tight door.
Your home may be free of lead-based paint hazards but your child could still be exposed elsewhere, particularly if they spend time in a building built before 1978. This includes schools, daycare centers, in-home daycare, and homes of relatives. Look around the inside and the outside of these structures for lead hazards, including:
Interior painted areas: Walls, cabinets, floors, doors, window sills, door frames, furniture. Exterior painted areas: Siding, gutters, porches, windows, doors, playground equipment.
Surrounding areas: structures with peeling or flaking paint can contaminate the soil around play areas.
If you find lead-based paint hazards, don’t panic.
Lead hazards can be reduced using interim controls like repairing deteriorated paint surfaces to keep them from peeling and chipping. If you choose interim controls, you need to watch these surfaces and keep them in good condition. If they start to peel and chip, they will become hazards again.
Do not attempt to repair any hazardous surfaces until you know how to do so safely, otherwise you can make things worse by spreading lead dust throughout your home. Refer to the EPA publication: Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home to make sure you are working safely with each surface. If larger repairs are needed, you should hire a professional that has been trained and certified in lead-safe renovation.
A child’s body absorbs lead as if it were a needed mineral, like calcium or iron. Gradually the lead builds up in his or her body and causes damage.
What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead is a powerful neurotoxin that interferes with the development and functioning of almost all body organs, particularly the kidneys, red blood cells, and central nervous system. In young children, lead retards the development of the central nervous system and brain. High levels of lead exposure can result in coma, convulsions, and death. At low levels, lead can cause reduced IQ, reading and learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and behavioral problems. As a result, childhood lead poisoning is associated with lower educational achievement, higher rates of high school drop-out and increased behavioral problems.
How big of a problem is lead poisoning?
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk facing children in industrialized countries today. It is also the number one most preventable childhood disease. In the United States, more than three million children age six and younger (that’s one out of every six children) already have toxic levels of lead in their bodies.
Where can lead-based paint be found?
Lead-based paint can be on walls, ceilings, woodwork, windows, and sometimes on floors. When lead-based paint on these surfaces is broken, sanded, or scraped, it breaks into tiny, sometimes invisible, pieces that your child may swallow or inhale. Even small repair and renovation jobs, including repainting projects, can create enough lead dust and chips to harm your child.
Can I use a do-it-yourself test kit?
You can. Follow the directions carefully to help ensure you get a correct result.
According to the EPA, these kits may give unreliable results. One of the reasons is that lead paint is usually buried under layers of newer non-lead paint. The do-it-yourself testing kits are often unable to measure deeply buried paint layers. Not using the test properly can also provide you with false results.
It is important to note that Iowa, HUD and the EPA do not permit the use of chemical spot test kits as an official test method. (Testing must be performed by State licensed lead inspectors and risk assessors.)
Who can perform "official" lead testing?
Testing to determine the presence of lead in paint, dust, water, and soil must be done by a State of Iowa licensed lead inspector. Lead Inspectors have an i.d. card that you should ask to see before the inspection begins.
If there’s lead in my home do I have to have it removed?
In Iowa, no. But, you do need to “manage it” using approved, lead safe work practices when performing maintenance or repairs.
What can I do to minimize the risk of lead poisoning in my home?
Be aware of the risks – if your home was built before 1978, determine if lead is present by having a certified lead inspector assess your home.
· Get your children tested (a simple blood test).
· Remove, minimize and manage lead hazards discovered in your home.
BEFORE you disturb a surface with old paint on it, you should contact Iowa Lead Safety or another certified inspector to schedule an inspection for your home. If lead-based paint is found in your home, have the repair or renovation done by a contractor who has been trained to protect your family and home from exposure to lead dust and chips.
If you choose to perform repairs yourself, read the EPA brochure “Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home” before you perform any of the following activities, which can produce paint dust and chips, in areas of your home where you know or suspect there is lead-based paint,
· scraping, sanding, or using a heat gun on painted surfaces before repainting
· making holes in walls to get at pipes or install electrical outlets
· tearing out walls,
· repeatedly bumping furniture or other objects into painted walls
· unnecessarily opening and closing windows with painted frames and sills.
How do I schedule a lead inspection?
Call our office, 515-331-1690 or 800-710-1315. We'explain the inspection process, provide you with a price quote and answer any questions you have.