Is lead poisoning threatening your health?
According to recent surveys, it appears that people, particularly younger generations, are becoming more health conscious than ever. Baby Boomers want healthy foods to help mitigate the effects of aging and Millenials want to snack often on vitamin fortified food items. Concurrently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that smoking rates are declining and ever smokers are dropping this unhealthy habit. It is encouraging to know that people of all ages are actively taking steps to improve their health and prevent sickness in the future. So I often wonder why many homeowners or property owners fail to see the importance of environmental testing before purchasing a home.
It’s interesting to think how far we’ve come as a nation with regard to health-related progression, yet something is missing. It may be that the missing piece is environmentally related, particularly when it comes to lead poisoning and lead testing. The Baby Boomer generation might understand the urgency behind testing for lead, but I’m not so sure that younger generations do. This is, in part, due to the fact that Millennials are not growing up with the notion that their surroundings could be toxic. But, in a “do-it-yourself” era, more and more people are purchasing older homes to fix up, dwell in, or flip, but do not opt for lead-based paint testing. Testing for lead before purchasing an older home, in my opinion, is non-negotiable. It is likely that houses or apartment buildings purchased before 1977 contain lead-based paint.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) breaks down the number of homes that are more likely to contain lead-based paint into percentages by the year the home was built. The chart below is a nice reference for people who have purchased homes built before 1977.
The CDC data points out that lead was used in paint for decades and can still be a factor today. Since lead is a naturally occuring element in our environment, old paint isn’t the only place it can be found. Dust, pipes, and plumbing materials are just a few other places this harmful element may accumulate or originate from. It is true that years ago, governing agencies enacted regulatory standards that reduced the amount of lead in consumer products like, water, cosmetics, and food, however, lead-based paint is still prevalent in homes today.
Consider these typical scenarios and decide for yourself if a one-time, affordable, lead-risk assessment is worth the extra step before buying property:
- When expecting mothers and fathers prepare for the birth of a child, one of the first things they do is establish a nursery. Remodeling a room may entail carpet removal, scraping off wallpaper or chipping paint, or simply adding a fresh coat of paint over the old paint. Throughout the nursery remodel project, lead may be emitted into the air via dust particles and chipped paint. Babies and children who are exposed to lead inhalation are at a greater risk for respiratory and nervous system problems.
- Another scenario to consider is when new homeowners remodel and fix up an older home. At the very least, most people paint the entire house. It would be helpful to know if a home contains lead-based paint because a special paint called an encapsulant is used to seal the dust and paint chips. An encapsulant is not something you want to apply yourself unless you are skilled and have proper gear to prevent inhalation.
The two scenarios mentioned are quite common because we all want our babies to have a beautiful nursery and we want to make a new home feel like our own. What we don’t want is anything to compromise the two.
Who is at risk for lead poisoning?
Children and pregnant women are vulnerable to the negative effects of lead inhalation or exposure. Young children have developing body systems that become compromised once lead accumulates in the bloodstream. Even a small amount of lead can be responsible for causing learning disabilities, nervous system disorders, behavioral problems, and slowed growth.
An even more unnerving understanding is that children who are malnourished are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because the minerals are more readily absorbed into the body. No body system is left unaffected in children who lack the nutrients to fight off the effects of even a small amount of lead in the blood. Diets rich in calcium and iron help thwart off the effects of high blood lead levels. Children whose diets lack these minerals increase their capacity to absorb and store lead in their bodies.
Pregnant or lactating women are also at risk since lead is stored in their bones along with calcium. Lead is passed from mother to fetus which may cause severe brain and developmental delays or other immunocompromising problems. The risk of miscarriage increases as well.
Is my family at risk for lead poisoning?
The EPA provides a Lead Poisoning Home Checklist to determine if your family is at risk for lead poisoning. It’s a fairly comprehensive checklist and a good place to start if you are concerned.
How do I get my house tested for lead?
Lead-based paint testing or a lead-risk assessment should be performed before you close on an older home. AMD Environmental specializes in testing techniques to identify all lead-based surface coatings in a home. For years, we have guided numerous home buyers or commercial property owners through this process to help them make informed decisions. Decisions such as how to eliminate or control any issues in the most cost-effective way possible. Be sure the company you choose is knowledgeable, experienced, and up to date on regulatory changes.
The bottom line is, no matter what generation you’re from, stay informed, educate yourself, and find a trusted source for all your environmental needs.
By Camille Panaro MS. ES., MS. Ed.