Originally lead was added to paint to make it last longer. Any home built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. House paint sold today has very low levels of lead. The problem with lead-based paint is that it is the most common source of lead poisoning in children.
Lead poisoning, a high concentration of lead in the body, is the major health problem for children under seven years. Children may play with toys that have lead dust clinging to them and touch surfaces that have been painted with lead-based paint. It can damage a child's brain, nervous system, kidneys, hearing or coordination. It is said to affect learning; it can cause blindness and behavior problems and can lead to death. Pregnant women and family pets are also at risk.
Other sources of lead may come from moving parts of windows and doors that make lead dust and chips; drinking water from older pipes that may be made of lead or lead-soldered; using some highly glazed pottery and cookware; removing old paint when refinishing furniture.
Paint can be tested by a qualified laboratory to see if it contains lead. Levels in paint are measured in parts per million (ppm). Currently the government allows 600 ppm of lead in household paint. Five thousand ppm or over is considered a high amount.
Non-professionals should not try to get rid of lead-based paint. In fact, scraping, sanding or burning lead paint is the most dangerous way of removing it as it produces large amounts of lead dust or fumes. Repainting with new paint or hanging wallpaper is not a permanent method of covering lead paint since the paint or wallpaper can peel and expose the lead once again. The Department of Housing and Urban Development recommends that each family immediately:
- Keep children away from paint chips and dust
- Wet mop floors and wipe down surfaces often, especially where floors and walls meet
- Keep floors clear of paint chips, dust and dirt. Note that lead dust is very fine and may pass through a vacuum bag and spread into the air
- Make children wash their hands frequently and always before eating
- Wash toys, teething rings and pacifiers often.
As this is a very complicated matter and the above is not a definitive resume of the problem or its abatement, I suggest you call the Alameda County Lead Information Line at 510.437.4752 for further information.
If you have any questions about the above article please contact me at: Francine@FrancineDiPalma.com or 510-982-4421
Francine Di Palma
Direct Line: 510-982-4421
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