Monday, August 22, 2011

LEAD …. what you need to know to stay protected!

WHEN did lead first come on the scene?

Lead is a heavy metal that has some very attractive qualities: it is super malleable, but highly resistant to corrosion. So it was heavily used in pipes, buildings, etc. to protect from rust. Mixed into paint, lead helped paint dry faster, stay fresh longer, and resist the damaging effects of moisture. It was a miracle substance, basically.

Unfortunately, lead also turned out to be toxic to humans, damaging the nervous system, stunting growth and delaying brain development.

WHERE is lead’s main presence today?

Before 1978 when lead was banned, it was used in paint, children’s toys and household furniture. Even though it is now banned, things manufactured before 1978 could still contain lead. Before 1988, lead was used in household pipes and plumbing fixtures, and the lead in pipes or pipe soldering can leach into water that flows through the pipes. In 1988, Congress changed the Safe Drinking Water Act to restrict the use of lead in said components of used in public, residential and non residential plumbing, but it is unfortunately still found in pipes today.
1.       Lead based paint is a hazard if it is peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking. Lead-based paint that appears undisturbed can also be a problem if is its on surfaces that children chew or get a lot of wear and tear (i.e window sills, doors and door frames, stairs, railings, banisters, porches, etc.)

2.       Dust can become contaminated with lead when lead-based paint is dry or scraped and sanded. Lead chips and dust can gather on surfaces and objects that people don’t touch or that children put into their mouths.

3.       Soil can become contaminated when exterior lead-based paint from houses or buildings flake or peel and get into the soil. Soil near roadways may also be contaminated from past use of leaded gasoline in cars. This soil can be detrimental for planting vegetable gardens.  

4.       Older plumbing fixtures (i.e faucets, lead pipes, pipes connected with lead solder) can contaminate drinking water. Lead can leach into water at any temperature, but the amount of lead can be much greater when the water is hot or warm; boiling water will not get rid of the lead.

5.       Imported, non-glossy, vinyl mini blinds can be a lead hazard especially to young children. Sunlight and heat break down the blinds and release lead-contaminated dust particles into the air.

6.       Lead glazed ceramic ware, pottery and leaded crystal can contaminate food and liquids stored in them.
HOW does lead gets into the body … and what can happen when it gets there?
1.       Lead mainly enters the body through the mouth or nose, anyone can be affected by lead, but because children ages 6 and younger are developing rapidly, and tend to put more things in their mouths, lead is especially dangerous to them.

2.       Exposure to lead, even at low-levels, can permanently affect children. Low level affects of lead include brain and kidney damage, learning disabilities, poor muscle coordination, behavior and speech problems, decreased muscle and bone growth and hearing damage.

3.       High lead levels can cause fertility problems (in men and women), digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problem and muscle and joint pain.
WHAT CAN I DO?! …. inform, protect and promote!
Inform yourself … is there lead in YOUR home?
The ONLY way of confirming whether or not there is lead in your home is to have either a risk assessment or a lead inspection done. (PUT ETC LINK HERE) Testing your water can be done by calling the EPA Drinking Water Hotline at (800) 426-4791 or your local health department or water supplier.
*According to the U.S census, 73.9 percent of Detroit’s homes were built before 1955, and are therefore likely to contain lead in places like painted walls and pipes.
What you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning?
Promoting safe practices can prevent lead poisoning …
Test yourself & your children! There is power in knowledge, and the best thing to do for any family member, regardless of age,  is to have the level of lead in that person’s body checked out.

1.       Make sure your children eat 3, healthy meals, a day. Meals should be high in calcium and iron and fatty foods should be avoided!
2.       Encourage children to play in grassy areas instead of dirt and wash their hands before they eat or sleep.
3.       Make sure children do not have access to peeling paint and do not chew on painted surfaces.
4.       Keep your home clean, wash children’s toys and bottles often.
5.       Teach your children about the dangers of lead.
If there is lead in the home, how do I get it out?
There are two ways to remove the lead: abatement and interim controls.
Abatement –permanently controls or gets rid of lead hazards in your home. It is broken down into four structural l components; replacement, enclosure, encapsulation and paint removal.
Interim controls –provide a useful and cheaper alternative for homes that cannot be abated right away. Controls include, removing lead dust, repainting lead-based surfaces, repainting friction and impact surfaces and preventing access to soil hazards.  *the EPA requires that you use a certified abatement contractor.
***In 2009, City Council passed a resolution requiring all landlords to have their rental properties inspected for lead. Before, the presence of lead in a home was only caught if a child was already found to be lead poisoned. It caused a stir among landlords because lead inspections are rather expensive (up to $300-400). Check back later for an update on how that initiative is going.

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