Lead is a soft, yet dense element found naturally in metal form. It is silver and blue until it interacts with air and becomes gray. In the past, Asian countries harnessed lead and it was also popular in Rome. When scientists discovered lead’s toxicity in the 1800s, its popularity declined slightly.
Lead can be found in many places, including:
- Consumer products
Throughout the world, lead has been used to make things like:
- Car batteries
Lead was also commonly used in children’s toys as paint. This led to widespread lead poisoning which continues to this day.
The Health Impact of Lead
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated that more than one million people worldwide died of lead poisoning in 2017. Today, many countries have banned the use of lead in production of consumer products. Lead is on the World Health Organization’s list of top ten most harmful chemicals to public health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the most dangerous sources for lead exposure are lead-contaminated dust and lead-based paint. Homes built prior to 1978 typically contain lead-based paint, and as that paint peels and deteriorates, it becomes especially dangerous for children in the home. Children under 6 years of age are at greatest risk because they are constantly putting their hands in their mouths, potentially introducing lead dust into their rapidly growing bodies.
Exposure to Children
The impact of lead poisoning in children can be more severe than in adults. They are at higher risk of exposure for several reasons. First, kids often pick up and ingest dirt or soil. Second, many toy manufacturers overseas use lead to produce kids’ toys, dishes, eating utensils, etc. The use of these products causes lead to seep into the skin.
Exposure to Adults
Like children, adults can also get lead poisoning from the use of consumer products. It takes a larger amount of lead exposure to impact adults, however, because their bodies absorb less overall. People who work in construction zones are at higher risk due to the amount of soil and old materials that they interact with. The government has a legal limit for how much lead a worker can be exposed to over an 8-hour shift (50 micrograms/m3).
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning manifests in several ways and can be fatal in large doses. Symptoms of exposure vary across age groups, but they include:
- Hearing issues
- Kidney failure
- Premature birth
- High blood pressure
- Learning disabilities
Several of these symptoms are difficult to diagnose straight away. Lead poisoning may not be the first root cause that comes to mind. While it is impossible to know all the sources of exposure, you can reduce your chances through proper home care.
How to Reduce Exposure Risk
The easiest way to reduce your chance of lead poisoning is to make your home as safe and clean as possible. Here are some of the things you can do to stay safe:
- Dust regularly.
- Keep all faucets clean and keep sinks dry when possible.
- Replace old paint around the house (windowpanes, walls, etc.).
- Disinfect child products like toys and bottles.
- Inspect outlets for dirt and clean them out.
- Have water damage inspected and fixed immediately.
According to the CDC, other ways to avoid contamination include regularly washing hands and toys, discouraging children from playing in bare soil, regularly checking the Lead Recalls list and avoiding the use of cookware that does not specifically say that it is lead free.
While these tactics will not lead-proof your entire house, they will make it less likely to accumulate toxins. Remember that lead also comes from the air and soil. Being proactive to clean up any outdoor messes coming inside will make your home safer in the long run.
Testing for Lead
To reduce the risk of lead poisoning, you should first have your home tested for lead. There are several options available, and they may help you find out the source of puzzling medical issues.
If you see that the paint is peeling, you should have an inspection done. Many older homes often used lead-based paint for decoration. If you get your paint tested for lead and it comes back positive, you should replace it. Having any amount of lead in your environment, over time, can cause health problems.
Home Testing Kits
Lead was prevalent in construction materials during the 1800s and 1900s. This means that many structures may still have contaminated walls. Whether you are buying a home or renovating one, a DIY test can help you find any issues. While they will tell you where lead is present, they are unable to say the amount of lead present. The EPA recommends several home lead testing kits.
They are D-Lead®, 3M™ LeadCheck™, and the State of Massachusetts test. You can buy these tests in places like hardware and/or paint stores. They cost roughly $10 to $25 each. Once you have done a home test, you can contact the National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (NLLAP) to locate a lab that can process it.
Professional Lead Testing
The most accurate way to test for lead is to have a professional do it. Licensed lead risk assessors will be able to identify possible lead-affected paints. They will be thorough in the inspection process and ensure that samples are sent to an environmental lab.
If you are in the Delaware, D.C., Maryland or Northern Virginia areas, MD Mold Testing offers lead testing as part of its inspection services. Aside from paint, lead can be present in plumbing pipes, vinyl blinds and the soil on your property, among other places.
We help prospective and existing homeowners keep their family safe from the dangers of lead, mold, asbestos, and other contaminants. Our history of service goes back more than 20 years, and we keep an open line of communication. You can call us 24 hours a day for emergency services. Contact us for a lead inspection today!