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Lead

Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because a child's growing body absorb's more lead, and their nervous systems and brains are more sensitive to lead's damaging effects. Babies and young children put most everything in their mouths, and these objects may have lead dust on them.

Lead-based paint in older homes or other facilities is the main source of lead exposures for U.S. children. The EPA banned lead from paint in 1978. Lead-based paint most likely will be present in your home if it was constructed or renovated before 1978, especially if it was built before 1950.

Lead in drinking water

High levels of lead in drinking water are a significant source of lead exposure for children. Lead levels are likely to be high if your home has any of the following:

Even if you are hooked up to a city or town water supply, which treats drinking water for contaminants, lead still can enter your drinking water through your home's own plumbing.

Lead levels in water pipes decrease as the building ages. Over time, mineral deposits coat the inside of the pipes, which insulates the water from the solder. During the first several years after construction, before this coating forms, water is in direct contact with the lead in the solder. This coating may form more rapidly if you have hard water.

Homes that are very old also are at high risk for lead-contaminated drinking water. Copper pipes have replaced lead pipes in most plumbing; however, the use of lead solder to connect the pipes is widespread. In fact, experts regard lead solder as the major cause of contamination to drinking water.

Health Effects

The long-term health effects of lead in children can be severe, and even result in death. Even small amounts can impact a child's health development. Research has shown that childhood exposure to unsafe lead levels can cause learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, dizziness, clumsiness, impaired hearing, brain damage, paralysis, and convulsions. In pregnant women, lead exposure can pass through the body to the unborn child, resulting in miscarriage or birth defects.

It is recommended that you use a licensed contractor for other lead-based paint activities because of the dangers of lead-based paint. Licensed lead-abatement contractors have been trained in proper lead removal.

During renovations, repair, or cleaning activities, you must protect your children. Children must be protected from lead dust, lead paint chips and lead contaminated soil. It is best to perform any alterations or renovations without children present. Children and pregnant women are especially at risk if exposed to unsafe levels of airborne lead dust.

You SHOULD:

  1. Test at-risk children. At-risk children are those who:
    • live in low-income communities
    • live or play in older housing (pre-1978), especially if the home is in poor condition or undergoing renovation
    • have brothers, sisters, or playmates with high lead levels
    • live with someone who is exposed to lead in the workplace or who has a hobby that uses lead (stained glass, pottery, etc.)
    • live near an industry that releases lead into the environment.
    • have had a previous high lead blood level test positive.

    Encourage parents of children who may have been exposed to lead to get their children tested by their doctor, health center, or local health department. A simple blood test can detect high lead levels.

    These tests are inexpensive and sometimes free. Blood tests for lead are especially important for children six months to six years of age. Treatment can range from changes in diet, to medication, or even a hospital stay in more severe cases.

  2. Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition. DO NOT SCRAPE, SAND, OR BURN lead-based paint. It is recommended that a licensed contractor perform all lead-based paint removal activities if your goal is permanent removal.
  3. Cover lead-based paint. If you are not removing lead-based paint permanently, enclose the undisturbed lead-based paint with water-based paint and or wall paper. Covering high-friction areas, such as window sills, window frames, and door frames, will not prevent lead dust from beign emitted from underneath the lead-based paint.
  4. Contact your landlord. If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.
  5. Discard paint chips safely. Clean up lead-based paint chips immediately with wet paper towels. When the paint chips or dust are wet, they will not emit lead dust. Discard in double-layered heavy duty trash bags. Seal bags tightly. Discard with your normal trash collection.
  6. Dust with wet rags or mops. Clean window frames, window sills, and other surfaces that create friction when opened with wet rags or mops as often as necessary to pick up small chips or dust. Also clean the floor, rug, or carpet around these friction areas. Use a mop or sponge with warm water and a high phosphate cleaner. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads with dish soap or an all purpose cleaner after each cleaning.
  7. Wet clean carpets annually. Wet cleaning carpets where lead dust may accumulate will reduce children's exposure to lead paint dust. Make sure the carpeting dries thoroughly to prevent mold, which can cause asthma or irritate allergies.
  8. Wash hands.Children put just about anything in their mouths, including soil or paint chips. In homes that are at risk for lead contamination, wash children's hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time and bed time. Prevent children from chewing or sucking on window sills, banisters, or other painted surfaces.
  9. Use low-odor, water-based paints. The paint should be dry and vapor smells nondetectable before children re-enter newly painted rooms.
  10. Clean toys. Keep play areas clean. Sanitize bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly in warm soapy water. Rinse.
  11. Use a door mat and wipe your shoes. Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from potentially contaminated soil. Wash the door mat regularly (do not shake it out where children play!) to help keep contaminants out of your home.
  12. Check your mini-blinds. If you have mini-blinds, contact the manufacturer to ensure your blinds are lead free. Replace mini-blinds that contain lead. Dust mini-blinds with a wet cloth if they contain lead or if you are not sure if they contain lead.
  13. Eat healthy. Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat foods that are high in iron and calcium. Examples include: spinach, low-fat dairy products, beans and lean meats, such as pork. Children with healthy diets will absorb less lead.

You should CONSIDER:

  1. Getting a Lead Risk assessment. Have your home and soil checked for lead hazards through a lead risk assessment. This assessment will include taking a dust wipe, peeling paint and soil sample.
  2. Flush your pipes before drinking or cooking. Whenever a faucet has not been used for six or more hours, "flush" the cold water pipes by running the water at least 30 seconds or until it becomes as cold as it will get. This could take as little as five to 30 seconds if there has been recent heavy water use, such as showering or toilet flushing. The more time the water has been in contact with pipes or fixtures containing lead, the more lead it may contain.
  3. Use cold water for drinking or food preparation. Use water from the cold water tap only for drinking, cooking, and especially for making infant formula. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold water tap then heat it. Hot water can contain higher lead levels because lead dissolves more quickly in hot water.
  4. Get your water tested. The only way to be sure of the amount of lead in your water is to have it tested.
  5. Contacting your utility. Lincoln Water System produces and distributes an annual report on water quality.
Other Potential Lead Sources:

Glazed pottery - Use glazed pottery only for display and keep out of children's reach, if you do not know whether it contains lead.

Leaded gasoline fumes - Leaded gasoline fumes may have deposited lead in the soil before 1978, when leaded gasoline was banned.

On the job - Parents who work or have hobbies involving lead, should change clothes and remove shoes before entering the home. Work clothes should be washed separately from children's laundry.

Food cans - Never store food in open cans. Keep it in glass, plastic, or stainless steel containers. The lead solder used to seal food cans can mix with food in the can. The United States banned the use of lead solder in cans in 1995, but still is used in other countries. Lead solder may be found in cans imported into the United States.

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