This guest blog post comes from Kansas City NARI member ABCO Supply, Kansas and Missouri’s trusted supplier of PPE and Abatement supplies. For more information about ABCO Supply, you can reach them at (913) 321-4100 or via email.
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Lead paint is still the leading cause of lead poisoning in this country — unlike water or soil, which are also significant risk sources. Lead can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, as well as behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and even death; young children and pregnant women, in particular, are at risk, but people (and animals) of any age can experience lead-caused health problems. Lead paint is tied to the age of the building, and in homes that were built before 1940, about 87 percent of them have a statistical likelihood of having some lead paint. As the homes get “younger,” the risk goes down, but it doesn’t rule it out. Lead paint was not banned in this country until 1978, so homes from 1960 to 1978, might have a 24-percent chance of having lead. Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. If the paint is in good shape, the lead paint is usually not a problem. Deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) is a hazard and needs immediate attention.
Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect — even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
- Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica)
Babies exposed to lead before birth might:
- Be born prematurely
- Have lower birth weight
- Have slowed growth
Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults might include:
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Mood disorders
- Reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm
- Miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women
Children under six years old are most at risk as it may be found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear, such as:
- Windows and window sills
- Doors and door frames
- Stairs, railings, banisters, and porches
Be sure to keep all paint in excellent shape and clean up dust frequently. Follow this link to the EPA Booklet on how to protect your family.
Steps to Keep Your Home Lead Safe
If your home was built before 1978, have your home tested for lead and learn about potential lead hazards. Fix any hazards that you may have. You can get your home checked in one or both of the following ways:
- A paint inspection — Tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home, but does not tell you if the paint is a hazard or how to deal with it. This is most appropriate when you are buying a home or signing a lease, before you renovate, and to help you determine how to maintain your home for lead safety.
- A risk assessment — Tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure such as peeling paint and lead dust, and tells you what actions to take to address these hazards. This is most helpful if you want to know if lead is causing exposure to your family now.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely, reliably, and effectively. You can have a combined risk assessment and inspection.
It is very important to care for the lead-painted surfaces in your home. Lead-based paint in good condition is usually not harmful. If your home was built before 1978:
- Regularly check your home for chipping, peeling, or deteriorating paint, and address issues promptly without excessive sanding. If you must sand, sand the minimum area needed, wet the area first, and clean up thoroughly.
- Regularly check all painted areas that rub together or get lots of wear, like windows, doors, and stairways, for any signs of deterioration.
- Regularly check for paint chips or dust – if you see some, remove carefully with a damp paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel.
- Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, at least weekly with a damp paper towel and throw away the paper towel.
- Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust.
Remember to test for the presence of lead and lead hazards by a lead professional – this will tell you where you must be especially careful.
There are more tips to help you reduce or prevent your family’s exposure to lead dust. It’s best to follow these steps weekly.
Cleaning Uncarpeted Floors
Damp mopping, with standard sponge or string type mops and an all-purpose cleaner.
Standard vacuum cleaners if no visible dust or debris from chipping or flaking paint is present.
Mops with a scrubber strip attached.
Powered buffing or polishing machines, or vacuums with beater bars that may wear away the painted surface.
Cleaning Carpets and Rugs
Wet scrubbing or steam cleaning methods to remove stains.
Standard vacuum cleaners if no visible dust or debris from chipping or flaking paint is present. Use only vacuums with HEPA filters otherwise.
Dry sweeping of surface dust and debris.
Shaking or beating of carpets and rugs.
Cleaning or Dusting Walls and other Painted Surfaces
Soft, dampened, disposable cloths with an all-purpose cleaner.
Steel wool, scouring pads, and abrasive cleaners.
Solvent cleaners that may dissolve paint.
Excessive rubbing of spots to remove them.