Lead is a toxic heavy metal found almost everywhere – even at home and the workplace. And exposure to lead can lead to impaired intellectual development and brain damage in adults and kids. With that in mind, it’s important to understand the risks associated with lead and how to limit your exposure.
What is Lead?
Lead, just like many other metals, is naturally occurring. While it does have some benefits, it is a toxic substance and can cause adverse health effects on humans and animals when ingested or inhaled.
It was only in the late 19th century that lead was identified as toxic and harmful. Up until then, lead carbonate was widely used in wall paint primarily to speed up the drying process, improve its durability and protect a surface from corrosion. Though the negative effects of lead on human health were recognized in the early 1900s. However, the use of lead in paint wasn’t banned until 1978.
Where is Lead Found?
Lead may be found in the soil in your yard, the school playgrounds, or even in your garden. If you grow vegetables and fruits in your kitchen garden, consider getting the soil tested for lead to ensure you are not indirectly ingesting the metal.
Playgrounds usually consist of artificial turfs. These turfs are made out of shredded rubber that also contains some amount of lead.
If you live near a construction site or an industrial area, lead could enter your home in the form of dust. From paint chips to paint dust, lead can travel from one site to another with the slightest breeze.
A wide range of older products like painted toys, jewelry, bath and body products like lipsticks and shampoos, kitchen containers, water bottles, and plumbing devices like faucets, bathroom fixtures, and pipes are known to contain lead.
Lead in drinking water is a major concern. Some older plumbing materials like pipe fittings, tap fittings, fixtures, and metallic water tanks are lined with lead solder. When these materials corrode, lead can easily disintegrate from the pipes and enter your drinking water. The primary cause of corrosion is the hard water that is supplied through these pipes. Hard water is acidic, and it has a strong chemical reaction with the lead present in pipes, causing pipes to erode rapidly.
The kind of jobs you do or hobbies you enjoy can also bring lead into your home. If you work in the mining, renovation, recycling, refurbishing, or auto body industry, you likely contact lead on a regular business.
What are the Health Effects of Lead?
Whether it is ingested or inhaled, lead is toxic and has adverse effects on humans and animals. Exposure to lead can have both short-term and long-term effects.
Immediate health effects include:
- Loss of Memory
- Loss of Appetite
- Restlessness in Hands and Feet
- Bodily Weakness
- Abdominal Pain
Gradual health effects include:
- Severe Memory Loss
- Extreme Constipation
- Acute Pain in Abdomen
- Prolonged Irritability
- Disorientation and Distractedness
Who is at Risk?
While lead can affect anyone, children and pregnant women should take special care to avoid lead. Pregnant women who have high levels of lead in their blood can pass lead to their unborn baby. High concentrations of lead in unborn babies can lead to premature birth, low body weight, and damage to the nervous system. As well as behavioral issues later in life.
Children are also most susceptible to lead poisoning since their nervous systems are still weak and prone to lead-related damage.
Construction, factory, auto, and other industry trade workers are also at an increased risk to lead exposure.
Testing for Lead
The only way to know for certain whether or not you have a lead issue is to have your home and property inspected.
Testing Paint – If you live in an old home built before 1978 and it hasn’t been renovated, you need to analyze the paint used in your home. Talk to your landowner or the previous occupants of how your house to find out what type of paint was used and when it was last applied.
Lead paint that is peeling, flaking, or falling off has the potential to harm. Lead-based dust from the paint can also pose a hazard, especially for young kids during renovations. Ensure that the contractor is Safe Lead Certified and follows safe remodeling procedures.
Testing Water – Due to water’s transparent color and tasteless properties, it can be hard to determine if your tap water contains lead. There are various ways to test water for lead contamination in your home.
What to do If Lead is Found?
If you believe you have found lead in your home, take the following precautionary measures:
- Call Aegis Environmental to test levels
- Clean up any peeling or flaking paint chips
- Thoroughly wipe your counters, tabletops, windowsills, and doorways to prevent layers of dust from settling.
- Wipe surfaces with a damp or wet cloth to remove dust from nook and ridges of painted areas
- While cooking or making drinks, stick to using only cold water
- Ensure children wash their hands regularly
- Frequently clean children’s toys, water bottles, and lunch boxes
- If you rent, inform your landlord and let him know that the apartment or house is contaminated with lead and request him or her to seek professional help
As they say, prevention is usually better than cure. It’s always better to be aware of hazardous materials in your home and do the best you can to keep your home free of pollutants, like lead, which can be harmful.
If you’re concerned about lead in your home, give us a call. We have certified consultants with years of experience who would be happy to help you. (317) 833-9000