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What is Lead?

Lead is a highly toxic metal and it is all around us. Lead was used for many years in paints and other products found in and around our homes. Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. There is a good chance that any home, building, school or day care center built before 1978 contains some lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces. Harmful exposures to lead can be created when lead-based paint is improperly removed from surfaces by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning.

Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint.

Landlords and property sellers must disclose information on lead-based paint hazards

High concentrations of airborne lead particles in homes can also result from lead dust from outdoor sources, including contaminated soil tracked inside, and use of lead in certain indoor activities such as soldering and stained-glass making.

One million children are affected by lead poisoning. Lead affects practically all systems within the body and at high levels it can cause convulsions, coma, and even death. Lower levels of lead can adversely affect the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys. The effects can include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Lead is dangerous to children because babies and young children often put their hands and other objects that can have lead dust on them in their mouths. Also, children’s growing bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies do, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Adults are also susceptible to lead exposure through contact from older home restorations, work related exposure or hobbies.

However, when you know what to look for and what to do, lead poisoning is entirely preventable.

Reduce the risk from lead-based paint – As mentioned above, most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint, and some homes built as recently as 1978 may also contain lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces. Do not burn painted wood since it may contain lead.

Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition – do not sand or burn off paint that may contain lead. Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (for example, opening a window).

Do not remove lead paint yourself – Individuals have been poisoned by scraping or sanding lead paint because these activities generate large amounts of lead dust. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems to remove lead-based paint. Occupants, especially children and pregnant women, should leave the building until all work is finished and clean-up is done.