blog: Putting a plug on lead poisoning at home |

blog: Putting a plug on lead poisoning at home

Pallavi Mukerjee
Vail CO, Colorado

In the blog posted last week, we discussed the sources of lead in our homes; and the serious health effects that occur due to lead poisoning. An important factor to realize is that lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The solution is to stop children from coming into contact with lead, and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.

There are several ways parent’s can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. While it is impossible to list every possible way; I have made an attempt to delineate a few basic ways in which parents can keep their children safe from lead exposure.

Lead based paint in the major source of exposure to lead. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead based paint. One should determine the construction year of the dwelling where their child may spend a large amount of time (grandparents, parents, and daycare). In housing built before 1978, it is a good idea to assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.

One can get their home tested for lead in several different ways:

A paint inspection test will tell you whether your home has lead based paint and where it is located. It is important to hire a trained and certified testing professional who will use reliable methods when testing your home. There are state and federal programs in place to ensure that testing is done safely, reliably and effectively. Contact your state or local agency for more information, or call 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) for a list of contacts in your area. Home test kits for lead are also available for lead testing. They use chemicals to detect lead in paint, soil, and dust. Some kits can test water, dishes, glasses, and ceramics. Consumers should not rely on these kits before doing renovations, or to assure safety from lead dangers, as they may not always be accurate.

Finally another method called ‘Risk Assessment’ will tell you if your home currently has any dangers from lead in paint, dust, or soil. It also tells you what actions to take to address these dangers.

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards (dangers due to presence of lead), you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family’s risk:

If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling or chipping paint.

Clean up paint chips immediately.

Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use a mop, or sponge with warm water and a general all purpose cleaner or one made specifically for lead.

Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.

Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.

Use cold water for drinking and cooking, as lead is more likely to leach into warm or hot water.

Don’t store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery.

To temporarily reduce dangers from lead exposure, one can repair damaged painted surfaces and plant grass to cover soil with high lead levels.

To permanently remove lead hazards, one should hire a certified lead ‘abatement’ contractor. Abatement means permanent removal. Some ways to remove lead permanently include removing, sealing, enclosing the lead based paint with special materials. Painting over the danger with regular paint is NOT permanent removal.

Some specific ways to protect children are as follows:

Have children play in grassy areas instead of soil. Sometimes dirt contains lead which can make children sick.

Never allow children to play under windows or around painted surfaces that often rub together or get bumped.

Make sure children wash their hands after playing outside, and before eating, or going to bed.

Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.

Keep children from chewing on painted surfaces, such as window sills, cribs, or playpens.

Make sure that children eat at three good meals, low in fat and high in iron and calcium. When a body doesn’t have enough calcium or iron in the body, the body mistakes lead for these nutrients. A diet lacking protein, vitamin C, and zinc may also cause increased blood- lead levels.

Avoid giving your children fried and fatty foods. These foods allow the body to absorb lead faster. Cut down on fat by baking, broiling, or steaming food.

Lastly, if you suspect that your child has been poisoned by lead, the best thing to do is to test the level of lead in his or her body. This is done by a quick blood test and in some states the department of health offers it free of charge.

There is an interesting publication by EPA called “Lead in your home: A Parent’s Reference Guide”. This is a great resource for someone who wishes to obtain further knowledge on this subject.

Pallavi Mukerjee can be reached at

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