About Lead Poisoning

Learn where lead poisoning dangers lurk in the everyday things around your home.

Lead poisoning has decreased over the past twenty years but it still remains a very real problem. Lead poisoning occurs when lead is ingested into the body by mouth from paint, dust, soil, water, and other sources. It is most dangerous to children under the age of six, the ages where children are most likely to put their hands in their mouths. That doesn't, however, rule out lead poisoning at any age. Severe lead poisoning can damage organs, cause brain damage, stomach disorders, weakness, or joint and muscle pain. For children, physical and mental development can be hampered by very small amounts of lead. Lead poisoning has been attributed to learning disorders and behavior problems in children.

Where does this dangerous stuff come from and how can we minimize exposure? Unfortunately, most of it is where we live or work, but there are steps to reduce the risks:

* Lead based paint was used in homes and apartment houses built before 1978 and is often still found beneath layers of newer paint. As paint wears and chips off of surfaces, as in the friction caused by opening and closing windows or remodeling projects that expose lead paint, these pieces deteriorate and release airborne particles of lead that are then breathed in by mouth. Small children may handle the chips or toys that have invisible particles of lead dust on them, getting the dust on their hands, then the hands go directly to the mouth. Use a damp cloth to wipe up dust, vacuum window sills often, keep children away when remodeling older homes, and wash toys that children may put in their mouth.

* Soil around homes that were painted with lead based paint or those near highways

( gas wasn't always unleaded ) may contain lead. Dirt is then tracked into the house, bringing the lead dust with it. Plant something... grass, shrubs, flowers... in areas that are bare soil.

* Some water pipes contain lead or lead solder, contaminating the water with lead thatcan't be detect without testing. Run water for 30 seconds before using it for cooking or drinking. Don't use water from the hot water tap for cooking.

* Hobbyists who create stained glass, make pottery, or craft fishing lures are exposed to lead. Keep children away from these areas.

* Workers in industries that use lead can carry lead dust home on their clothes or exposed skin. Get as much dust as possible off skin and clothing before leaving work or change clothes. Wash work clothes separately.

*Lead dust is carried on the air in industrialized areas. There's not much we can do here except keep doors and windows closed if you live near factories.

Those are the most common sources of lead poisoning, but there are others:

* Imported children's jewelry, especially those in vending machines, often contains lead. Just wearing the jewelry is not dangerous, but children tend to pull the hanging pendant up and put it in their mouths. You may have to work out a swap, but throw this jewelry away.

* Vinyl mini-blinds made before 1997 contain lead that can be exposed as the blinds deteriorate. If you have blinds this old, replace them, being careful to stir up as little dust as possible.

* Lead crystal should not be used to store food or beverages, particularly acidic or alcoholic beverages. Fill the container just before use and empty the contents as quickly as possible. Pregnant women and children should not use lead crystal.

* Some candies and their wrappers have been shown to contain unacceptable amounts of lead. The majority of these candies are made in Mexico. Don't buy this candy.

* Imported pottery often contains lead. If the glazing has any cracks or chips, use it for decoration only.

* Folk remedies often contain dangerous amounts of lead. The following remedies are the most commonly used: azarcon, greta, kandu, kohl, and pay-loo-ah. Azarcon and pay-loo-ah can contain up to 90% lead. If you, or anyone you know, uses the remedies, stop immediately and see a doctor.

Reasonably priced testing kits are available to test almost everything around the home, but if you think your water may be contaminated, contact your health department. The Center for Disease Control, Environmental Defense, and local health departments are agencies that offer good information about lead poisoning. Be informed about lead poisoning for the safety of your family.

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