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The Basics of Lead Toxicity

No level of lead is safe.

Lead exposure is a very real and prevalent occurrence even today. The main sources of contamination are termed “legacy sources” such as soil surrounding older buildings and leaded water pipes.

Even when stabilization is completed, or paint is kept in good condition, exposure can be ongoing because of how much this harmful material was used. The only way to ensure a future of non-exposure is to fully abate and replace.

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Where is Lead Found?

  • At home – home environments are at risk, especially those built before the lead ban in 1978
  • At schools and child care facilities – older playground equipment can still contain lead-based paint
  • In products – lead has been used in products like painted toys, furniture, jewelry, and cosmetics. Commonly found today in products made in other countries
  • In drinking water – homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder
  • In outdoor air – lead enters the air from metals processing plants, waste incinerators, utilities, and lead-acid battery manufacturers
  • In soil – soil can become contaminated when exterior lead-based paint flakes or peels into the soil
  • In dust – lead in household dust results from deteriorating lead-based paint, home repair activities, and tracking it in from outdoors

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Who is at Risk?

  • Children. Children age six and under are most susceptible to the effects of lead. Even low levels in the blood can lead to permanent behavior and learning problems, lower IQ and hyperactivity, slowed growth, hearing problems and anemia
  • Pregnant Women. Lead can pass from the mother to the fetus or breastfeeding infant. This can lead to greater risk of miscarriage, premature births, damage to the baby’s nervous system, and increased likelihood of behavioral problems/li>
  • Other Adults. Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, which can lead to cardiovascular effects, increased blood pressure and hypertension, decreased kidney function, and reproductive problems (women and men)

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How to Lower Your Exposure to Lead

Simple steps like keeping your house clean and well-maintained go a long way in preventing exposure to lead. Here are the EPA’s recommended steps:

  • Use caution – remediate lead in older buildings
    • Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces to prevent paint deterioration
    • Address water damage quickly and completely
    • Clean around painted areas where friction can generate dust
  • Abate and replace – fully remove legacy sources
    • Make sure your renovation and repairs contractor is Lead-Safe Certified
    • Make sure your renovation and repairs contractor is following lead-safe work practices.

Sources: EPA.gov – learn about lead

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