Childhood lead poisoning is one of the most common pediatric health problems in the United States today, and it is entirely preventable (CDC, 1991). Lead poisoning is particularly dangerous to children since their bodies are developing. If untreated, it can lead to physical and intellectual problems.
Lead is a naturally occurring element which is a heavy, soft, malleable bluish metal. The mining and smelting of lead has caused millions of tons to be spread into the environment. In the 1940’s interior and exterior paint contained as much as 50% lead. It was not until the 1950’s that lead in paint was considerably reduced and then continued to decline into the 1970’s. In 1978, the Consumer Product Safety Commission decreased allowable levels of lead in paint to no more than 0.06% by weight in interior and exterior residential surfaces, toys, and furniture.
Overtime, lead-based paint has been the culprit in poisoning children and adults. The deterioration of older housing stock contaminates the soil, causes dust exposure, and becomes accessible to children who put things in their mouth (pica).
What is lead?
Is there a cure for lead poisoning?
Where in the house can a person get lead poisoned?
How does lead enter the person’s body?
Can my house contain lead?
Any home or apartment built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint.
- Homes built before 1960 have the greatest concentrations of lead- based paint.
- Areas such as windows, cabinets, floors, or any lead-based painted surfaces are likely to create lead dust, which is a route of lead exposure in a home.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Lead poisoned individuals typically do not show symptoms until the level exceeds 50ug/dl.
- Low levels of lead in children are 10-35ug/dl and in adults 10-40 ug/dl. These levels most often lack symptoms.
- Moderate levels of lead in children are 35-50ug/dl and for adults 40-60 ug/dl. If symptoms occur, they usually are: general fatigue, irritability, difficulty concentrating, tremors, headaches, abdominal pain, vomiting, weight loss, or constipation. Often these symptoms may be mistaken for other disorders
- High levels are over 50 ug/dl in children and over 60 ug/dl in adults. At these high levels, lead poisoning could lead to convulsions, paralysis, coma, and death.
How do I know if my child is at risk?
Your child may be at risk if:
- Your child lives in or routinely visits a home built before 1978 that has chipping, peeling paint.
- Your child has a brother, sister, house mate or play mate that has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.
- Your child lives with an adult that has a job or hobby which deals with lead.
- You and your child lives near a lead smelter
Children are vulnerable to lead poisoning and are at a greater risk than adults. Children frequently do hand-to-mouth activity, which puts them at greater risk for ingesting lead dust or soil. Children absorb and retain a larger percentage of ingested lead per unit of body weight than adults, which increases the toxic effects of the lead. Children’s bodies and nervous systems are developing. Lead poisoning interferes with the proper development of a child’s nervous system and organs. Blood lead levels as low as 10ug/dl, which do not usually cause the person to show symptoms, are associated with decreased intelligence and impaired neurobehavioral development. Other affects at these low levels, include decreased stature or growth, decreased hearing acuity, and decreased ability to maintain a steady posture.
Adults also are affected by lead poisoning. Affects such as hypertension, anemia, less in hearing acuity, reduced sperm count in men, decreased longevity, and seizures. Pregnant woman should also be aware that lead can be passed from the pregnant women to the fetus, so women should take steps to ensure they are not exposed to lead during their pregnancy.
If you feel your home has lead-based paint, there are professional companies that will come to you home and test for lead based paint.
If your home tests positive, a professional lead-abatement contractor will be able to remove the lead. For a list of approved lead-abatement contractors call the State Health Department, Environmental Health Lead Division.
Can a home improvement contractor remove the lead?
NO, you need to hire a lead-abatement contractor that is licensed by the State of Connecticut.
- If you are a tenant and have concerns about lead in your apartment, contact the owner to have it tested.
- If you or your child have been exposed to lead-based paint in the home, the owner is responsible for removing the lead and making the environment safe for his/her residents.
How can the Department of Health help?
The City of Stamford Department of Health has knowledgeable staff that can assist you with any questions regarding lead. The health department is also responsible for investigating cases of lead poisoned children six years of age and younger with lead levels 10ug/dl or greater. If the results indicate lead is present in the home, the owner will be responsible for abating the lead. It is important to have a certified lead abatement contractor remove the lead to assure proper removal and clean-up.
What can be done to prevent lead poisoning if lead is suspected in the house?
To help prevent exposure, it is important to avoid scraping, sanding, or using a heat gun on painted surfaces. If you spot chipping or peeling paint in the house, clean that surface with a disposable cloth, warm water, and a phosphate-containing detergent or trisodium phosphate (TSP) which is available in hardware stores. The wet mopping and wet dusting once a week with a solution of warm water and the detergent or TSP will keep the lead dust down. It is important to note that the individual cleaning should wear gloves and dispose of the gloves and wiping cloths immediately following clean-up. Also the individual that is cleaning should make sure there are no pregnant women or children in the vicinity. WASH HANDS AND CLOTHS IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING CLEAN-UP.
What should I do if I think my water has lead in it?
If you are concerned about lead in your drinking water, have it professionally tested. Do not cook, or make baby formula with hot water from the tap. Always use cold water and let the water run 2 minutes before using, especially if the tap has not been used for several hours.
Other potential sources of lead can be:
- glass or crystal
- capsules on wine bottles
- colored newspapers
- comics made in foreign countries
- non-western medicines/folk remedies
- dishes/ceramic ware
- Toys, Mexican Candy, Children's Jewelry
The City of Stamford takes pride in the knowledge that its children are safe and live in conditions not detrimental to their health. It is important that the children of Stamford get tested for lead and measures are taken to prevent exposure in their environment. It is also important for adults with hobbies or occupations that deal with lead to also get tested.
With a collaborative effort between the citizens of Stamford and the Stamford Department of Health , we can prevent lead exposure through lead screening, community education, and maintenance of properties. Please feel free to call the Stamford Department of Health at (203)977-5911 or (203) 977-4391 for any information regarding lead poisoning. It is a serious problem that can be prevented
Get the Lead Out!
- Contractors, property managers, and others who perform renovations for compensation in residential housing, apartments, and child occupied facilities built before 1978 are required to distribute the lead pamphlet, “Renovate Right” before starting renovation work. http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovaterightbrochure.pdf
- Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, and Renovation Work - This booklet will give you tips on how to work in a lead-safe manner.
Labs that Test for Lead
- List of laboratories that test for lead in paint, dust, and soil
- List of laboratories that test for lead in drinking water
- Laboratories that will test for Lead in Toys
- Connecticut In-State Lead Laboratories Accredited by the US-EPA National Lead Laboratory Accreditation Program (NLLAP)