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. In the long run, children who are lead poisoned may be less likely to become positive contributors to our communities and our economy.

What causes Lead Poisoning?

In Children – Childhood lead poisoning is the number one environmental health risk for children today. In the United States, more than three million children age six and younger — that’s one out of six — already have toxic levels of lead in their bodies. Lead interferes with the development and functioning of almost all body organs, and retards the development of the central nervous system and brain. Lead is sometimes called, “brain poison.”

Even tiny amounts of lead can cause reduced IQ, reading and learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder and behavioral problems. As a result, lead poisoning is associated with lower educational achievement, higher school drop-out rates, and increased delinquency. It is estimated that lead poisoning has tripled the number of children needing special education.

80% of childhood lead poisoning occurs at home. Many homeowners are not aware of the hazards associated with lead-based paint and unknowingly poison their own children by not following safe work practices during renovation or by not attending to deteriorating and/or chipping paint.

While it is true that many kids get poisoned by eating paint chips — they taste sweet — most children are poisoned by invisible lead dust created when lead paint deteriorates from age, is exposed to the elements, is damaged by water, is exposed by friction (such as the opening and closing of a door or window), or during home renovation.

In Adults – Most adults are poisoned at work. There are laws that seek to prevent this, but many are not yet widely enforced. Any employee who may be exposed to lead in any amount, should have personal air sampling done.

Why is remodeling an older home considered a risk?

If proper precautions are not taken, remodeling or renovating an older home (pre-1978) can generate a very large amount of dust. Even small jobs done during routine maintenance, like painting can generate lead dust.

Do many homes have lead-based paint hazards?

It is estimated that at least 19 million homes have lead-based paint hazards, of which at least 4 million have young children under age the age of six living in them. (HUD 1990; EPA 1995).

What do I have to do to comply with the Federal disclosure laws?

Each time a home or apartment built before 1978 (the year lead was banned in residential paint) is sold or rented, owners are required to give sellers or renters a copy of the EPA pamphlet Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home and disclose any known lead or lead hazards on the property. The pamphlet is free and can be ordered by calling 1-800-LEAD-FYI.

If there’s lead in my home, do I have to remove it?

In most states there are no laws that require you to remove lead paint. (Check with state and local authorities to see if there are more stringent laws where you live.) But, you do have to contend with it. That is “manage it” using approved, lead safe work practices when performing maintenance or repairs.

What’s the difference between lead-safe and lead-free?

A lead-free home or apartment has no lead (or lead hazards). A lead-safe home or apartment has no lead hazards, but it may still contain lead paint.

What’s a HEPA vacuum?

High-Efficiency Particulate Air which is a filter capable of removing particles of 0.3 microns or larger from air at 99.97 per cent or better efficiency. You’ll see HEPA filters on air-purifying systems, power tools, and vacuums, both industrial and residential.

When lead paint is disturbed (by opening and closing a window, or by sanding or scraping, or by the weather), the paint deteriorates by turning into extremely tiny particles of dust. Lead dust particles are too small to be seen by the human eye, and too small to be captured by a regular vacuum. However, HEPA filters trap lead dust.

What is a Risk Assessment?

A risk assessment, concentrates on lead hazards. This is usually what most people are interested in: is my house safe? A risk assessor takes dust and soil samples and sends them to an accredited laboratory. If lead hazards are found, the risk assessment report includes a prioritized plan, based on your budget that tells you how to remove or manage the hazards.

What’s the difference between a lead inspection and a risk assessment?

A lead inspection tests every surface inside and outside your home to see if there’s lead paint and where it’s located. This is important information if you plan to renovate or do repairs that might disturb painted surfaces. (Lead paint under layers of newer non-lead paint is usually not a hazard unless it is disturbed.) A lead inspection does not tell you if the paint is a hazard, it simply tells you where it is.
You should have a lead inspection if you plan to renovate, or plan to remove lead paint (to make the property lead-free), or if a property will be demolished.

What is XRF Testing?

XRF stands for x-ray fluorescence. An XRF is a portable x-ray machine that is frequently used by lead inspectors. It can see through a surface and tell if lead paint is underneath.