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Lead Prevention

Although lead poisoning can be irreversible and so detrimental to our health, especially for children, it is also completely preventable.

KidsMost children become poisoned when living in homes built before 1978, particularly after a renovation occurs. When a home is built before 1978, chances are very high it is contaminated with lead and therefore should be tested for lead, especially when there are children age six years or younger in the home.

Keeping the home clean and free of lead hazards is one way to reduce exposure to lead in the home. The U.S. EPA offers tips on keeping homes clean:

  • If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.

  • Clean up paint chips immediately.

  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, sponge, or paper towel with warm water and a general all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead. Remember: Never mix amonia and bleach products together since they can form a dangerous gas.

  • Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.

  • Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bed time.

  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.

  • Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.

  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.

  • Make sure children eat healthy and nutritious meals as recommended by the National Dietary Guidelines. Children with good diets absorb less lead.

 

Dust Fingers
Lead dust is all but invisible to the naked eye. Wiping with a wet cloth is the best method for cleaning.

Additional Steps:

  • You can temporarily reduce lead hazards by taking actions such as repairing damaged painted surfaces and planting grass to cover soil with high lead levels. These actions are not permanent solutions and will need ongoing attention.

  • To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.

  • Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems -- someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government.

  • Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for help with locating certified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.


Lead Hazard Control

Property or home owners may choose to temporarily or permanently (lead abatement) control lead hazards, in addition to proper cleaning methods to reduce exposure to lead in the home.

WindowsillTemporary Methods Include:

  • Repairing rotted or damaged underlying layers that cause paint damage

  • Fixing floors and interior window sills and window wells so that they are smooth and cleanable

  • Covering lead-based paint on high-use surfaces, such as stairs and floors, or repairing windows and doors so that they open easily to avoid creating lead-based paint chips or high levels of lead dust

  • Covering lead-based paint on or blocking access to surfaces within reach of children

  • Covering or blocking access to all bare soil containing high levels of lead

  • Cleaning surfaces to reduce lead dust, including cleaning carpets

  • Cleaning surfaces below five feet that small children may put their mouths on, including but not limited to wall corners, doors, stairs, railings, windows, baseboards, and chair rails

  • Parts of windows (with sills below five feet) that move or touch moving parts

It is highly recommended that a licensed lead contractor do the abatement work. Homeowners, however, can do the following:

  • Cover surfaces with painted with lead-based paint by using paneling, plywood, fabrics, or other coverings that block access to the lead-based paint

  • Remove paint from surfaces by wet scraping or stripping, or sanding with a HEPA filter

Please read the EPA's Renovate Right brochure for more information on how to properly renovate a pre-1978 home.


Pregnant WomanPregnant Women

There are several steps expectant mothers can take to protect themselves and their babies from lead hazards:

  • If you live in a home built before 1978 you should assume it has lead paint and use the above the steps to reduce lead hazards in your home. If you are planning to renovate, make sure to follow the lead-safe practices described in the Renovate Right pamphlet.

  • Since it is easy to collect lead dust on the hands, be sure to wash your hands often, especially before cooking and eating

  • Pregnant women should avoid hobbies that expose them to lead (painting, stained glass, etc.) or at the very least, be sure to shower and change clothes before going home to prevent bringing lead into the home

  • Certain foods or supplements may help prevent lead from getting into the blood and harming the unborn baby. These include foods (or supplements) high in calcium, vitamin C and iron.Of course, always check with your doctor before taking any supplements when pregnant.

  • Use only cold water to make baby formula.Pre-1978 homes may have pipes with lead and warm water is more likely to retain lead. Use cold water after it has been running from the tap and feels cold.

  • Breast-feed. While there may be some lead in breast milk if the mother has high levels of lead, research does not suggest that breastfeeding would be harmful to the baby. Consult your doctor.