LSU AgCenter Housing Specialist
(10/26/20) BATON ROUGE, La. — This is national lead poisoning prevention week. You likely already know that lead is toxic, especially for young children, but it’s incredibly important to learn more. The theme of lead week is Get the Facts, Get Your Home Tested and Get Your Child Tested.
Get the Facts
The bad news: There is no safe blood lead level in children. When it enters the body, lead can result in damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, and hearing and speech problems. Heavy exposure can also damage adults and raise blood pressure.
The good news: Lead poisoning is preventable. The key to prevention is awareness of sources and how to avoid exposure.
The most common source of exposure is from lead-based paint, which was used in many homes built before 1978. Children are typically exposed by swallowing or breathing in lead dust created by old paint that has chipped or eroded into fine dust that floats in the air and settles in food, on food preparation surfaces, floors, window sills and other places.
Home improvement projects that disturb lead paint can create a major lead poisoning hazard for everyone in the household. This is especially concerning now because there has been a large increase in home renovation and repair projects during the pandemic. Many people have spent much more time than usual at home, breathing and ingesting residual lead-contaminated dust.
Be sure to hire only EPA Lead-safe Certified firms to work on a pre-1978 home or child care facility. Certified firms are listed on the www.epa.gov/lead website, and certified contractors have official EPA certificates with their photo on it. If doing repair work yourself, learn about and use lead-safe work practices at the same EPA website.
Lead is also found in soil (from past leaded gasoline) and in drinking water. The most common sources of lead in drinking water are lead pipes, faucets and fixtures. Other examples of possible sources of lead include some metal toys and jewelry, toys and furniture painted with lead-based paint, some imported items (such as health remedies, foods and candies, cosmetics, powders or makeup used in religious ceremonies), and lead-glazed pottery and porcelain.
Some simple steps to protect your family from lead are include cleaning regularly with a damp wipe or HEPA vacuum, washing children’s hands and toys often and wiping or removing shoes before entering the home.
Get your home tested
If your home was built before 1978, it’s a good idea to hire a certified inspector or risk assessor who can check your home for lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards. In general, the older the home, the greater the lead hazard present.
Get your child tested
A simple blood test can detect lead, so act early to get your child tested. Children’s blood lead levels tend to increase from 6 to 12 months of age and tend to peak at 18 to 24 months of age. Louisiana has mandated that all young children be screened for lead, but many parents are not aware and don’t get the test if they don’t think the child is at risk of high exposure. Yet, because lead is common in and outside homes, and even a tiny amount of lead can cause lifelong harm, be sure to get your child tested. Adults who may have been exposed to high lead levels should also get tested.
To learn more about healthy, resilient and energy-efficient home improvements and home building, explore the wealth of research-based, non-commercial information on the LSU AgCenter LaHouse Resource Center website at www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse and in the video collection at www.youtube.com/mylahouse.