“Get the Lead Out!” is an expression used to hurry troops, but for occupants of older homes it means something else. If your home or apartment were built before 1978, you could potentially have lead poisoning.
Banned from use in homes in the late 1970s, many older, unrenovated homes and apartments may still have lead paint. Lead can come from lead pipes, paint with lead as an ingredient, and even older window screens. It builds up in the body over time and its presence is harmful to both people and pets. Young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning from ingesting lead paint chips. Adults can contract lead poisoning from working with batteries, making home renovations, working in auto repair shops or from hobbies such as making stained glass.
Lead poisoning is treatable but with practical precautions can be avoided. The Mayo Clinic discovered that lead poisoning is not easily detectable, and people who seem perfectly healthy may have elevated lead content levels in their blood. Symptoms do not appear until lead levels are dangerously elevated.
Before buying or renting a pre-1978 home or apartment, federal guidelines require intentional disclosures on all known information relating to lead-based paint hazards. Real estate contracts and leases must include a detailed warning statement and buyers receive a 10-day window for inspections. Property owners and property managers leasing housing must disclose all known information on lead-based paint and any abatements before leases become effective.
Every homeowner, tenant and property owner of a home or dwelling unit built before 1978 should fully understand the gravity of this hazard by downloading and reviewing the Environmental Protection Agency brochure, “Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home,” from the epa.gov website. If you plan to renovate a home built before 1978, you should also download the EPA’s brochure, “The Lead-Safe Certified Guide to Renovate Right.”
Lead poisoning occurs through a variety of ways. You can breathe in lead dust if you renovate a home or paint surfaces and disturb lead dust. Children can eat lead paint chips or dirt that contains lead. Lead poisoning is especially harmful to children under six because they touch and eat everything and their nervous systems, brains and bodies absorb lead more easily than adults. Pregnant women can become affected by lead, and it can cause premature births, reduced birth weight and slower growth.
Lead can affect the human body in numerous ways. In children, lead exposure can cause kidney and nervous system damage, learning disabilities, ADD and speech and behavior problems. It can also cause improper muscle coordination, reduced bone and muscle growth and loss of hearing. In adults, lead poisoning can increase the potential for high blood pressure during pregnancy, fertility problems in women and men, memory problems, muscle pain and even digestive challenges.
What are lead poisoning warning signs? For children these can include learning disabilities, weight loss, sluggish behavior, loss of appetite, vomiting and abdominal pain. Babies exposed to lead poisoning prior to delivery may have reduced birth weight and slower growth. Adult signs include high blood pressure, headaches, mood swings, abdominal pain, and low sperm count.
If you do not know about the potential presence of lead in your home you can buy home lead paint test kits or contact a lead paint abatement company for a free consultation. When in doubt — get your house tested. If you or any of your home’s occupants exhibit any of these telltale warning signs, make an appointment to see your doctor immediately. Take all necessary measures to “Get the Lead Out!” today.
Reen Waterman is a freelance writer and newspaper columnist with his weekly column “About the House.” He writes and co-hosts a daily radio program heard in 91 countries at www.YourRefreshedLife.com. An avid outdoorsman, Waterman is a member of the Outdoor Writers Association of America and the American Writers and Artists Institute.