How to Protect Your Child from Lead Poisoning
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How to Protect Your Child from Lead Poisoning

How to recognize a lead paint hazard.

In 1994 I was offered the opportunity to buy my deceased aunts home before my family was going to list it with a realtor. I was twenty eight at the time and had a family of six to house. Until this opportunity came along my family and I had been living in a third floor apartment with only dreams of homeownership. The house which had been neglected for many years needed many repairs but came at the low price of $60,000 and the warning that lead paint had been used in the home and that I should have it inspected and consider removing the hazard before moving my children into the home.

I heeded my uncles’ advice and hired an inspector. He came into the home armed with a small machine and a bunch of markers. He would first touch the painted surfaces with the marker and if it turned pink it meant that lead was present. Once he determined that lead was present he checked the concentration of lead with his machine. Once he was done he provided me with documentation that outlined where the lead paint was and at what concentrations. I thanked him, paid him his $275 fee and asked him how much he thought it would cost to have the toxic material removed from the home. I almost dropped dead when he told me that it would run in the neighborhood of $20,000 to $30,000 dollars and that even the removal of paint from a single door would usually run about $900. My next question was, "Can I do it myself?" He said that I could but that I must first take the Lead Paint Contractors course at Tufts University in Medford, Massachusetts. Well since the course only cost about $700 guess what I was doing? You got it. I enrolled in the next class, and since I had so much at stake (the health and welfare of my four children) I paid very close attention to everything taught in the class.

One of the first and most alarming things I learned in the class was how common lead paint poisoning was, its many ill effects and the many ways it could be contracted.

• Lead paint poisoning is most common and most harmful to small children under the age of seven. Their smaller bodies are at greater risk from even the smallest amount of lead ingestion. The effects of lead poisoning are irreversible and they include: Anti-social behavior, learning disabilities brain damage, major organ failure, coma and death. The center for disease control has concluded that damage begins when lead levels in the blood reach 10 micrograms per deciliter of blood. (A very small amount) Lead is stored in the bones and once ingested any damage to the organs cannot be repaired. There is chelation therapy which helps to remove lead from the bloodstream but that is the only treatment and it is not a cure. So now, for the sake of your children I hope to have piqued your interest

. Signs that your child may be suffering from lead poisoning are as follows:

• Sluggishness, headaches, seizures, cramps, constipation, staring and hyperactivity.

I am not going to go into methods of removal of lead paint in this nor any other factoid. While I passed the contractors course and recieved certification, I would be remiss at best and liable at worst if I attempted to teach such a complicated procedure within the body of a factoid.The best way I can teach you to fight lead poisoning is prevention. To prevent lead poisoning you must first know its causes so let’s go over those.

Lead paint is the leading cause of lead poisoning. It was also considered the best paint until it was outlawed in 1978. If your house was built before 1979 have your house inspected. Know where the poisonous material is in your home and be sure it is kept in immaculate condition. Lead paint was expensive and was most commonly used in common areas such as foyers and dining rooms but it could be anywhere. Areas of highest concern are those that move such as doors and windows. Once I took the lead paint course and was aware of the threat, I began to notice the tiny specks of paint near every door and window of my home with the naked eye. Lead has a slightly sweet taste to it, so small children will stare out a window while unconsciously chewing on the sill. Lead can also be present in the water of your home if lead solder was used in your plumbing. Lead can even be found in the soil around your home. It can be contaminated from peeling exterior paint or from lead goosenecks wearing away in the gutter system and flowing to the ground below the drainpipe. Lead is also used in colored ink and can be found in wallpaper. Many toys made outside of the U.S. contain lead paint and should be avoided. Canned fruits and vegetables from outside the U.S. will sometimes be sealed with lead. And for us adults never store wine or liquor in lead crystal containers for longer than a few hours.

Now that you know where to find the lead this is what you should do to protect your children and yourself:

• Once your home has been inspected, have a licensed and insured contractor remove the paint from your home if you can afford to have this done. It will be very expensive. He will remove the paint in your home by stripping it from your woodwork or by replacing the woodwork altogether. Encapsulation may also be an option. He will also be liable if anyone gets sick in the house after the job is done so get references.

• If you cannot afford to have the paint removed do not attempt it yourself without proper training and equipment. This would be extremely foolish and dangerous for your family. Instead re-paint all surfaces thoroughly twice. This will encapsulate the lead and unless banged or chewed on, it will be safe.

• Clean everything. Floors, woodwork etc. with a tri sodium phosphate wash. Wear gloves and eye protection.

• Do not allow your child to put toys, food that has fallen or his hands in his mouth. Be very strict about this.

• Get some lead testing pens (You can find these on-line) Test your childs toys to be sure there is no lead paint on them.

• Use tap water only for bathing.

• Paint over or wallpaper over any wallpaper containing lead.

• Add 6"- 8" of new soil around your home and new sod.

• Know the condition of other homes where your child may spend time. (Grandparents, baby sitters, daycare centers, friends etc.)

I hope this information will help to keep you and your family healthy and safe.

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Comments (2)

Excellent article ... And another path crossed. I did lead abatement work in Providence. Lead is still a problem and shouldn't be. It all boils down to greed and incompetence. I worked for Rhode Island Housing. They were funded mostly by HUD. Their administrators blatently robbed me. When they weren't ripping me off or a party to it like in two other situations, they were so slow at their jobs, and kept such a light work load that I'll bet it cost the taxpayer $10,000.00 to administrate a $20,000.00 lead abatement project. They funded the work with a no payback until you sell intrest free loan that have probably caused a lot of home owners to be upside down in equity. Some landlords and homeowners I worked for gamed RIH and got a really good deal on a remodel... Siding, painted interior, new vinyl replacement windows, new doors, poly floors and sod. One customer got all that and a plane ticket to Guatamala...she burned me bad. In the abatement class I heard of a two year old that got poisoned. They didn't find any lead paint in the house. Then they saw the kid with a pewter piece on a keychain in his mouth. The pewter was the source of the poisoning.

Very useful information you shared in this article. We all should be aware of this, as this affects us esp. our children.