by Susan Kite, PG
Senior Geologist

The focus of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) is to increase awareness on ways to reduce childhood exposure and prevent lead poisoning by highlighting ways parents can reduce lead exposure in their child’s environment.  Even very low levels of lead in children’s blood are linked to adverse effects on intellect, concentration, and academic achievement.  While the United States has made substantial progress reducing lead exposure over the last 40 years, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other Federal partners are committed to addressing on-going lead exposure and its health impacts on communities across the United States. 

Why Lead?  
Lead was added to paint, stains, and varnishes as a pigment and to add durability and corrosion resistance.  Corrosion of lead-containing materials in plumbing can introduce lead into drinking water.  Leaded gasoline and industrial sources create dust and can lead to airborne lead exposure.  Lead can also be found in food, through lead-glazed dishes, lead-soldered containers, and through uptake into food crops from lead deposited into the soil.  Lead can also be found in some children’s toys.

Children across the nation may be exposed to lead through ingestion of deteriorating (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged, or damp) lead-based paint in homes, schools, and playgrounds or from renovations to pre-1978 homes that contain lead-based paint.  Some communities may have lead in their drinking water, lead-contaminated soil from exterior lead-based paint, lead deposited in soil near roadways from vehicle exhaust before lead was banned in gasoline, or from other historical lead sources and uses.  Finally, other children may experience take-home lead exposures when adults bring lead into their homes, typically on shoes and clothing, from workplaces.  Communities may also have lead exposure from a combination of these sources.

This year, the themes of the CDC’s NLPPW are:

  • Get the Facts
  • Get Your Home Tested
  • Get your Child Tested

What Are the Facts?
About 3.3 MILLION American households with children under 6 YEARS old have lead exposure hazards —including 2.1 MILLION low-income households.  High levels of exposure can attack the brain and central nervous system, causing coma, convulsions, and even death.  Children who survive severe lead poisoning may suffer long-term intellectual challenges and behavioral disorders.  No safe blood lead level in children has been identified.

Lead is toxic, especially in young children, and can lead to brain and nervous system damage, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems.

Lead poisoning is preventable. The key is preventing children from coming into contact with lead.

Lead can be found inside and outside the home.  A common source of exposure is deteriorated lead-based paint, which was used inside and outside many homes built before 1978 and in other buildings and steel structures which may be nearby, including schools and playgrounds.  Children can be exposed through ingestion or inhalation of lead dust created by paint that has cracked and chipped, ingestion of paint chips, and chewing on surfaces coated with lead dust and/or lead-based paint, such as window sills.  According to the CDC:

• Steps can be taken to protect family members from lead-based paint hazards in the home, such as regularly cleaning with wet or damp sponges or cloths to control dust, washing children’s hands and toys often, and wiping and removing shoes before entering the home.

• If you live in a home built before 1978, a certified inspector or risk assessor can be hired to check your home for lead-based paint or lead hazards.  If renting, ask your landlord to have your home or apartment tested or give you previous test results.

• When performing renovation, repair, or painting jobs in a pre-1978 home, hire a lead-safe certified contractor who is trained in lead-safe work practices (a group of techniques to prevent lead exposure resulting from renovation and repair activities).

• Lead may also be found in drinking water.  The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets, and fixtures.  Contact your local health department or water company to find out about testing your water or visit https://www.epa.gov/lead for EPA’s lead in drinking water information.

• Lead naturally occurs in soil. However, in many places in the United States, the amount of lead in soil is significantly higher than naturally occurring levels due to industrial and human activities.  Lead-impacted soil can become a source of lead exposure if accidentally ingested when the impacted soil gets on family members’ hands when playing in the yard, working in soil, gardening, or gets tracked inside on shoes or clothing.

Other potential sources of lead include toys, painted furniture, metal or plastic jewelry, items made in other countries and imported into the United States, and lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.

Get Your Home Tested
Homes built prior to 1978, should have a lead-based paint inspection conducted to identify if the home has lead-based paint present and where it is located.  If lead-based paint is identified, a risk assessment should be conducted to identify current lead hazards from lead in paint, dust, or soil and what actions to take to address those hazards.  Be sure to utilize the services of a certified lead-based paint inspector or risk assessor.

Get Your Child Tested
A healthcare provider or local clinic can provide guidance and advice concerning blood lead testing.  Blood lead tests are recommended for children or other family members (especially pregnant women) who have been exposed to high levels of lead and young children living in high-risk areas or who belong to high risk-populations.

Additional Resources:
World Health Organization (WHO)
National Lead Information Center: 1 (800) 424-LEAD (5323).

How Can We Help?
The EI Group, Inc. (EI) has been conducting certified lead-based paint inspection and risk assessment services for more than 25 years.  We also provide additional services such as asbestos inspections and remediation compliance monitoring, and mold and indoor air quality assessments.  Should you have environmental questions or concerns, please contact Susan Kite, PG,  Senior Geologist at (678) 640-5268 or [email protected].