Lead Poisoning In Your Home
What is lead?
Lead is a naturally occurring, poisonous element found in the earth. Over the years it has been used in paint, petrol, plumbing supplies and many other products.
Lead Has Been Found In:
- Some traditional medicines (including Kohl, Liga, Surma, Greta, Ayurvedic medicines, azarcon, litargirio, and others)
- Some cosmetics from non-western countries
- Craft paints
- Pottery glazes
- Household plumbing pipes
- Some containers, cookware and tableware (always check labels for lead free)
- Some candies from Mexico
- Some toys and toy jewelry
- Household water (generally from the pipes not the supply)
Be Extra Careful If You:
- Are renovating or restoring an older home
- Do your own plumbing
- Handle fishing sinkers
- Do Stained glass windows as a hobby
- Use bullets
- Use craft paint, pottery glazes or lead solder
How Are You Exposed To Lead?
Lead exposure can occur when you inhale lead fumes or dust. It may be ingested via contaminated foods, water, clothing or contaminated hands.
Lead that has been breathed in or swallowed is released into the blood supply and transported around the entire body. It then accumulates in the bones where it is stored. This lead is then re-released into the system re-exposing organ systems again and again…
Lead-based Paint and Contaminated Dust Are Still The Most Common Causes Of Lead Exposure Today.
As lead paint deteriorates, or becomes flaky the lead can be ingested by children or released into the atmosphere, elevating levels of lead contaminated house dust, causing serious health issues to all exposed.
Lead-based paints were very common in houses built earlier than 1960 and was banned for home use in 1978, although lead can still be found in paints manufactured between 1960 and 1990.
All paints manufactured later than this (in the USA and Canada) are virtually lead free.
Who is at risk?
- Children under six are very high risk because they tend to put objects, (including their own hands and feet), which may be contaminated with lead dust into their mouths
- People living in older housing may face increased exposure
Lead Poisoning Symptoms
No definitive symptoms exist; symptoms in children are typically non specific.
Common Non-specific Symptoms Include:
- Mood swings, irritability and behavioral changes
- Hyper or decreased activity
- Language delay and loss of developmental milestones
Higher Levels Of Exposure May Cause:
- Abdominal Pain, constipation
- Loss of appetite, vomiting
- Headache, ataxia (loss of control of body movements)
- Somnolence (feeling drowsy – sleepy)
- A lack of energy
- Seizures, Stupor (a state of almost unconsciousness)
Adults may experience all of the above symptoms. In addition adults may develop further symptoms such as:
- Foot drop/wrist drop (The foot or hand drops due to weakness)
- Sleep disorders
- Remove the source of contamination (it may be better to seal in old lead paint rather than remove it)
- Chelation therapy. Medication taken by mouth binds with the lead and allows it to be passed with your urine
- EDTA chelation therapy. This is an injection for people who cannot tolerate the standard chelation therapy medication or adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood. The most common drug used is ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA).
Lead Exposure Prevention
- Check the age of your home
- If your home is build before 1978 assume it contains lead paint
- Test your home for lead
- Make sure there is no flaking, or worn painted areas
- If you are renovating a house built before 1978 pregnant women and children should not be present
- Create barriers between the lead source and living areas until an environmental cleanup has been completed
- Wash kids toys and hands regularly
- Mop floors and wet-wipe flat surfaces and window sills regularly
- Before entering the house take off your shoes. This will stop lead from the soil being dragged into your home
- Stop your children from playing in soil (sand boxes are fine)
- Cover bare soil around your house with wood chips, mulch, grass etc
- Don’t use traditional folk medicine and cosmetics that may contain lead
- Be careful eating candies manufactured in Mexico
- Check toys and toy jewelry carefully before purchase
- Use cold water when you can, hot water is more likely to contain lead. (Let your tap run for one minute before use to clear any lead build up).
- Use lead free pots, pans and dishes
- Be careful using pewter and crystal products
- Get tested for lead on your annual doctor checkups
Lead Levels – How Much Is Too Much?
A small amount of lead in an adult is thought to be harmless, but, even tiny doses of lead in infants and children are dangerous and may lead to mental development problems.
- Less than 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL) or 0.48 micromoles per liter (µmol/L) of lead in the blood
- Less than 5 µg/dL or 0.24 µmol/L of lead in the blood
Read for more information from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control)
Testing Your Home For Lead Is A Very Fast, Simple Procedure With Many Do It Yourself Kits Available.