Who is at Risk?
Lead is particularly dangerous to
children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their
brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they
often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on
them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and
drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain
lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or
from playing with toys with lead paint.
Including Pregnant Women
Adults may be exposed to lead by
eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses
that contain lead. They may also breath lead dust by spending time in areas
where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during renovation or repair work
that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. Working in a job
or engaging in hobbies where lead is used, such as making stained glass, can
increase exposure as can certain folk remedies containing lead. A pregnant
woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it
can result in exposure to her developing baby.
What are the Health Effects of
Lead can affect almost every
organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most
susceptible to the effects of lead.
Even low levels of lead in the
blood of children can result in:
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing Problems
In rare cases, ingestion of lead
can cause seizures, coma and even death.
Lead can accumulate in our bodies
over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy,
lead is released from bones as maternal calcium and is used to help form the
bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough
dietary calcium. Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus
the lead. This can result in serious effects to the mother and her
developing fetus, including:
- Reduced growth of the fetus
- Premature birth
Lower Your Chances of Exposure to
Simple steps like keeping your
home clean and well-maintained will go a long way in preventing lead exposure.
You can lower the chances of exposure to lead in your home, both now and in the
future, by taking these steps:
- Inspect and maintain all painted surfaces to prevent paint
- Address water damage quickly and completely
- Keep your home clean and dust-free
- Clean around painted areas where friction can generate dust, such as
doors, windows, and drawers. Wipe these areas with a wet sponge or rag to
remove paint chips or dust
- Use only cold water to prepare food and drinks
- Flush water outlets used for drinking or food preparation
- Clean debris out of outlet screens or faucet aerators on a regular
- Wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often
- Teach children to wipe and remove their shoes and wash hands after
- Ensure that your family members eat well-balanced meals. Children with
healthy diets absorb less lead. See Lead and a Healthy Diet, What You Can Do to Protect Your Child (PDF)
- If you are having home renovation, repairs, or painting done, make
sure your contractor is Lead-Safe Certified,
and make sure they follow lead safe work practices (PDF)
Talk to your pediatrician,
general physician, or local health agency about what you can do. Your
doctor can do a simple blood test to check you or your child for lead exposure.
You may also want to test your home for sources of lead.
How Lead Gets
into Drinking Water
Lead can enter drinking water
when service pipes that contain lead corrode, especially where the water has
high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. The most
common problem is with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures with
lead solder, from which significant amounts of lead can enter into the water,
especially hot water.
Homes built before 1986 are more
likely to have lead pipes, fixtures and solder. The Safe Drinking Water Act
(SDWA) has reduced the maximum allowable lead content -- that is, content that
is considered "lead-free" -- to be a weighted average of 0.25 percent
calculated across the wetted surfaces of pipes, pipe fittings, plumbing
fittings, and fixtures and 0.2 percent for solder and flux.
We Can Test for
Lead in Your Home.