Quote of the Day

Monday, April 27, 2015

Lead-based Paint, Lead Poisoning, and Children at Risk

"This is ridiculous," I snarled. "Needing a license to remove paint is just another money grab from the government." 

I couldn't understand why I would need to become lead-based paint certified when I was already a Certified Restorer, Professional Mold Remediator, and a General Contractor. I had clean-up feces, mold, and dead bodies, lead-based paint didn't bother me. After 45 years of experience, what more did I need to learn about the building and restoration industry?

As I sat waiting for the class to start, I was angry to need to be there, frustrated that I wasn't out fixing some of the multitudes of problems on my list, and disheartened that I would also have to spend hundreds of dollars each year for another certification I didn't needed. 

I was peeved.

That was me, not a fictitious, composite character that I usually use for these articles, but the real me 5 years ago. I just couldn't fathom how this new license could possibly help me with my business, other than the thousands of dollar in fines we would be assessed without the training. We did flood and fire mitigation and repairs, which often involve sewage, mold, and other situations not conducive to dinner table discussions. But now, years later, I have a better understanding of lead, lead poisoning, and the devastating effects it can have on the innocent and I am passionate about making a difference.

Lead was everywhere.
I grew up in the era of lead in paint, lead in gasoline, and asbestos in nearly everything else. Lead was one of the first metals used by man because it was soft enough to manipulate with primitive tools. Alloys were added in later years to create pewter, which increased its strength and durability. Lead was added to paint before the birth of Christ to add durability and brighten the colors. It was added to automobile gasoline in the 1920's to improve combustion.

There were some doctors who recognized the problems of lead poisoning over 2000 years ago, but because lead worked for so many things, change was slow in coming. It was concluded early that lead cookware would allow lead to be absorbed into the body, but even then, it was hard for science, medicine, and government to agree.

Where is lead today?
So, we ended up with lead in the paint on our houses, lead in the paint on our furniture, lead in the paint on our appliances, and lead in our gasoline. Everyone thought we were safe from the lead, because we don't chew the siding, suck on the fridge, or drink gasoline. That is, adults don't do those things.

Children were eating the paint on window sills, their toys, and anything else they could put into their mouths. We had also missed another very important point, lead had been added to wine thousands of years ago to improve the flavor. Lead actually has a sweet taste. So it made the paint taste good, encouraging small children to lick and chew again and again, ingesting more and more lead each day.

Even though we didn't drink gasoline, once the gas exploded in our engine, the lead particulates flew out the tailpipe as part of the exhaust. These particles have settled on the roads and shoulders all over the world. As we walk along busy roads on the shoulder, sidewalk or gutter, we stir up lots of lead dust that settles on our shoes and clothes. We then, track this lead into our cars and homes.

Why is lead a concern?
Our bodies treat lead like it does calcium so it deposits it in the places that calcium is supposed to be. It then interferes with many of the body's processes and is toxic to many organs and tissues, including; the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, reproductive and nervous systems. It hampers the body's ability to create a proper nervous system in young children causing them to never achieve the intelligence their DNA is capable of.

Ingestion of a small amount of lead can begin to cause problems. Consumed again and again over time, lead continues to compound these problems.

If you have concerns, your doctor can perform or refer you to a doctor who can do a blood lead level (BLL) test. This test measures the level of lead in the blood so you can know if your child is at risk. If you or your child has elevated levels of lead, there are steps to remove the lead from your home as well as protocols to leach it from your body. Do not do either without proper direction from trained, certified professionals.

Hazards to children
  • Damages the kidneys and nervous system.
  • Decrease in intelligence.
  • Causes attention deficit disorder and learning disabilities.
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems.
Hazards to pregnant women:
  • Lead is passed from the mother to the fetus and can cause:
  • Miscarriages.
  • Premature births.
  • Brain damage.
  • Low birth weight.
Negative health effects of lead in adults include:
  • High blood pressure.
  • Fertility problems in both men and women.
  • Digestive problems.
  • Nervous disorders.
  • Memory and concentration problems.
  • Loss of sex drive and/or capability. 
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Physical fatigue.
Lead poisoning is a problem, but removing it incorrectly can exacerbate the problem. It is important that proper lead renovation protocol is used. I will discuss that more in another article.

For more information, check out:
Renovate Right, EPA document on lead poisoning and renovation
The Truth About Lead Paint Poisoning, tri-fold brochure
Steps to Lead Safe Renovation, Repair and Painting
American Healthy Home Survey, Lead and Arsenic Findings, April 2011

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