Lead is a toxic metal harmful to human health if inhaled or ingested. Young children, infants, and fetuses are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning as their bodies are rapidly developing and more susceptible to taking in lead if exposed. When absorbed into the body, it can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems. At least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to high levels of lead.
Sources of Lead Exposure:
- Homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paints were banned) probably contain lead-based paint. When the paint peels and cracks, it makes lead dust. Children can be poisoned by swallowing or breathing in lead dust (especially during activities such as renovations, or repairs), eating paint chips, or chewing on surfaces coated with lead-based paint, such as window sills.
- Lead can also be found in drinking water. Lead in water originates from lead plumbing materials – including faucets, pipes, fittings and the solder that holds them all together – corroding and releasing lead into the water. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to be a cause of concern.
- Lead can be found in some products such as toys and jewelry and other inexpensive items (i.e., health remedies, foods and candies, cosmetics, powders or make-up) imported from countries where lead is not adequately regulated.
- Certain jobs and hobbies involve working with lead-based products, like stain glass work, and may cause parents to bring lead into the home.
- Children who live near airports may be exposed to lead in air and soil from aviation gas.
The number one thing people should know about lead exposure is that it’s 100% preventable.
- If your home was built before 1978, you can get it tested:
- A lead-based paint inspection that tells you if your home has lead-based paint and where it is located.
- A lead risk assessment that tells you if your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust, or soil, and what actions to take to address those hazards.
- a home test kit. Any laboratory can perform testing, but it should be certified by the EPA NLLAP program to ensure that the results are accurate and meet the EPA requirements. If you rent, ask your landlord to have your home or apartment tested.
- If you suspect lead is in your water, first check your water utility’s Consumer Confidence Report (CCR). Even if a city’s water report passes lead testing’s action levels, there could still be lead in your home’s water taps so it’s best to test it. If you have lead in your water, use only cold water for drinking, cooking and making baby formula. Boiling water does not remove lead from water, and can increase its concentration. Regularly clean your faucet’s screen (also known as an aerator). Although flushing your pipes by running your tap can partly reduce hazards, the best way to eliminate the risks is to install a water filter certified to to NSF/ANSI 53 and 58 standards to remove lead. Visit NSF.org for a listing, or check out EWG’s water filter buying guide.
- If you have concerns about your child’s potential exposure to lead, let your pediatrician know, and request a blood lead test. Ask your doctor to test your child for lead at age 6 to 14 months, and again at age 22 to 26 months. Every child, should be tested twice by the age of two.