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Lead Awareness and Detection

Posted on Friday, February 24, 2023
As spring is right around the corner, many Americans are starting their home projects. How can you be sure that your home is lead free and safe for your family?

What is lead poisoning?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that can cause negative health effects. People are exposed to lead by eating lead chips, ingesting contaminated food or water, and or by breathing in lead dust. Children younger than 6 years are more likely to be exposed to lead dust due to their hand to mouth behavior. Many children ingest lead dust by putting objects such as toys and dirt in their mouth. Because of their developing nervous system, children younger than 6 years old are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure since lead is easily absorbed in their nervous system.

Who is at Risk?

Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead-based paint.
Adults, Including Pregnant Women Adults may be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may also breath lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. Working in a job or engaging in hobbies where lead is used, such as making stained glass, can increase exposure as can certain folk remedies containing lead. A pregnant woman's exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby.

Where can lead poisoning come from? Homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paints were banned) probably contain lead-based paint. When the paint peels and cracks, it makes lead dust. Children can be exposed to lead when they swallow or breathe in lead dust.
Certain water pipes may contain lead.
Lead can be found in some products such as toys and jewelry.
Lead is sometimes in candies or traditional home remedies.
Certain jobs and hobbies involve working with lead-based products, like stain glass work, and may cause parents to bring lead into the home.
Children who live near airports may be exposed to lead in air and soil from aviation gas used in piston engine aircrafts.

How is lead posioning detected?
A blood lead test is the best way to determine if a person has been exposed to lead. Parents can talk to their healthcare provider to find out if a blood lead test is needed. Healthcare providers can recommend follow-up actions and care based on the child's BLL.

Symptoms of lead poisoning
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.

Lead poisoning symptoms in children
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)
Lead poisoning symptoms in newborns
Babies exposed to lead before birth might:

Be born prematurely
Have lower birth weight
Have slowed growth
Lead poisoning symptoms in adults
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

Simple measures can help protect you and your family from lead poisoning:
Wash hands and toys. To help reduce hand-to-mouth transfer of contaminated dust or soil, wash your children's hands after outdoor play, before eating and at bedtime. Wash their toys regularly.
Clean dusty surfaces. Clean your floors with a wet mop and wipe furniture, windowsills and other dusty surfaces with a damp cloth.
Remove shoes before entering the house. This will help keep lead-based soil outside.
Run cold water. If you have older plumbing containing lead pipes or fittings, run your cold water for at least a minute before using. Don't use hot tap water to make baby formula or for cooking.
Prevent children from playing on soil. Provide them with a sandbox that's covered when not in use. Plant grass or cover bare soil with mulch.
Eat a healthy diet. Regular meals and good nutrition might help lower lead absorption. Children especially need enough calcium, vitamin C and iron in their diets to help keep lead from being absorbed.
Keep your home well maintained. If your home has lead-based paint, check regularly for peeling paint and fix problems promptly. Try not to sand, which generates dust particles that contain lead.

How is lead posioning treated?
The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of the contamination. If you can't remove lead from your environment, you might be able to reduce the likelihood that it will cause problems.
For instance, sometimes it's better to seal in rather than remove old lead paint. Your local health department can recommend ways to identify and reduce lead in your home and community.
For children and adults with relatively low lead levels, simply avoiding exposure to lead might be enough to reduce blood lead levels.
Treating higher levels For more-severe cases, your doctor might recommend:
Chelation therapy. In this treatment, a medication given by mouth binds with the lead so that it's excreted in urine. Chelation therapy might be recommended for children with a blood level of 45 mcg/dL or greater and adults with high blood levels of lead or symptoms of lead poisoning. EDTA chelation therapy. Health care providers treat adults with lead levels greater than 45 mcg/dL of blood and children who can't tolerate the drug used in conventional chelation therapy most commonly with a chemical called calcium disodium ethylenediaminetetraacetic acid (EDTA). EDTA is given by injection.

How can I test for lead in my home? If your home was built before 1978 and you suspect it contains lead-based paint, have your home tested for lead and learn about potential lead hazards. There are a few options available to test your home for lead-based paint:
A lead-based paint inspection - Tells you if your home has lead-based paint and where it is located. It will not tell you whether your home currently has lead hazards or how to deal with it. This is most helpful when buying a home or signing a lease, before renovating.
A lead-based paint risk assessment - Tells you if your home currently has any lead hazards from lead in paint, dust or soil and what actions to take to address these hazards. This is most helpful if your home is known or suspected to contain lead-based paint.
A combination inspection and risk assessment - Tells you if your home has any lead-based paint and if your home has any lead hazards, and where both are located.
More ways to find out if your home is lead safe - https://www.epa.gov/lead/how-make-your-home-lead-safe

Sources: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/lead-poisoning/symptoms-causes/syc-20354717 https://www.epa.gov/lead/learn-about-lead https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/overview.html