FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.
Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the U.S. Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
People can get lead in their body if they:
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
In general, the older your home, the more likely it has lead-based paint.
Paint. Many homes built before 1978 have lead-based paint. The federal government banned lead-based paint from housing in 1978. Some states stopped its use even earlier. Lead can be found:
Drinking water. Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
Lead from paint chips, which you can see, and lead dust, which you can't always see, can be serious hazards.
Peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking lead-based paint is a hazard and needs immediate attention. Lead-based paint may also be a hazard when found on surfaces that children can chew or that get a lot of wear-and-tear. These areas include:
Note: Lead-based paint that is in good condition is usually not a hazard.
Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry scraped, dry sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can get on surfaces and objects that people touch. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it.
Lead in soil can be a hazard when children play in bare soil or when people bring soil into the house on their shoes.
Your Home You can get your home checked in one of two ways, or both:
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely, reliably, and effectively. Contact the National Lead Information Center (NLIC) for a list of contacts in your area.
Trained professionals use a range of methods when checking your home, including:
If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:
To permanently remove lead hazards, you must hire a certified lead "abatement" contractor. Abatement (or permanent hazard elimination) methods include removing, sealing, or enclosing lead-based paint with special materials. Just painting over the hazard with regular paint is not enough.
Always hire a person with special training for correcting lead problems--someone who knows how to do this work safely and has the proper equipment to clean up thoroughly. Certified contractors will employ qualified workers and follow strict safety rules set by their state or the federal government.
Contact the National Lead Information Center(NLIC) for help with locating certified contractors in your area and to see if financial assistance is available.
Remember: lead dust can remain in your home long after the work is done.
Temporarily move your family (especially children and pregnant women) out of the apartment or house until the work is done and the area is properly cleaned. If you can't move your family, at least completely seal off the work area.
If you have already completed renovations or remodeling that could have released lead-based paint or dust, get your young children tested and follow the steps outlined to protect your family.