Lead poisoning can cause much damage to the human body, especially in children under the age of six and women of childbearing age. In children, lead can cause damage to the nervous system, kidneys, muscles, and bones. Learning disabilities and behavior problems have also been linked to high lead levels. In some extreme cases, seizures and even death can occur.
Adults are not immune from the effects of lead. High blood lead levels can cause fertility problems, high blood pressure and digestive problems. There is also an increased risk of memory and concentration problems and increased muscle and joint pain.
There are many things you can do to protect your family from the risks of lead poisoning. The first thing you need to do is know where lead is likely to be lurking. In any home built before 1978, there is the possibility of lead contamination inside the house and in the surrounding soil outside. Lead was used in paint before that time. Any peeling paint is a hazard, as is dust caused by renovations on a home with lead-based paint. Water pipes may have lead or lead solder. This will cause water in your home to contain lead. The only way to know this is to have your water tested, as lead has no smell or taste.
The greatest thing you can do if you suspect the possibility of lead in your home, especially if it was built before 1978, is have your home and family tested. Younger children may automatically be required to have this test. Often, it is this required test that alerts a family to lead exposure.
Until your home is tested and found free of lead, here are a few things you can do to help protect your family. Use only cold water for cooking and drinking; and run the water for fifteen to thirty seconds before drinking it. Take a tour of your home and look for peeling paint. This being the biggest risk, it needs to be taken care of immediately. Peeling paint on the exterior of your home can contaminate the soil and requires the same immediate attention.
There are cleaners made specifically for cleaning lead dust. Use one of these cleaners regularly, at least once a week, to clean floors, window sills and frames and any other areas that might have lead dust. Any sponges and mops you use should be thoroughly cleaned and rinsed between cleanings. Have your children wash their hands often, especially before meals. Removing shoes upon entering your home will help prevent soil contaminated with lead from being spread inside the house. Finally, a diet high in calcium and iron will reduce the absorption of lead into the body.
Should you be doing any renovation work on untested areas, take safety precautions. Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch or scraper for these areas. High temperature heat guns and sandpaper are also dangerous. These items create a high amount of dust that may contain lead. If possible, moving your family out temporarily would be ideal in protecting them.
To permanently remove lead hazards, you need to hire a person certified in the methods of lead abatement. They are trained in the best possible way to remove lead, without causing a risk to your family. Many states, and the federal government, have created safety procedures these contractors must follow. It will be well worth any inconvenience to know your family is safe from this silent danger.