Lead was called the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States” by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services in 1991.


Lead exposure can occur in a number of ways including through air, water, food, soil, paint, and dust.  Lead was commonly used in paint, gasoline, piping, and many other things before its dangerous effects were realized. 


The simple acts of breathing and swallowing can cause airborne lead to enter a person’s system.  The most prevalent source of lead exposure in the U.S. is from old lead-based paint.  Prior to 1960, the paint used in almost all homes was heavily leaded.  Even up to 1978 lead-based paints were used inside and outside of homes and businesses.  When this paint begins to chip or flake or when improper removal efforts are made, harmful lead exposure is created.  Contaminated soil tracked into a home as well as soldering can contribute to lead dust.


High levels of lead exposure can result in convulsions, coma and even death.  Lower levels can still cause serious problems in the brain, central nervous system, blood cells, and kidneys.


Children and Lead


The most dangerous effects of lead exposure are experienced by fetuses and young children.  For these innocent victims, physical and mental development may be delayed, IQ levels may suffer, attention spans can be shortened, and an increase in behavioral problems is a possibility.  The tissues of small children are more sensitive and, therefore, lead is more easily absorbed into their bodies than adults.  This, in addition to the fact that children are far more likely to put their hands or other objects containing lead into their mouths, makes them the most vulnerable to the existence of lead and lead dust in home.


Every child should be tested for lead exposure.




During remodeling it is important to separate the areas being worked in from the rest of the house.  Barriers or an exhaust ventilation strategy are suggested.  Choosing a contractor that follows the EPA’s 2010 “Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers and Schools” guidelines is also a good idea.


Keeping the living areas clean during a remodel is recommended as well.  Mopping floors, wiping down window ledges and other edges and surfaces can keep lead dust exposure at a minimum.  Washing toys and stuffed animals and little one’s hands are additional ways to limit the existence of lead, during remodeling work especially.


Paint in Good Condition


Lead-based paint that is in good condition should be left alone.  The exception to this is painted surfaces that create dust by being rubbed together like a window would do when opened and closed.  Never sand or burn off paint that may contain lead.  Attempting to remove paint with lead in it can cause serious harm when the proper precautions are not taken.  You should have our home tested for lead prior to any renovation or paint removal efforts.  If lead exists, hire a professional trained to deal with lead-based paint to perform the removal.  The home should be vacated while the work is under way, especially if children and/or a pregnant woman are living there.


Other Sources of Lead Exposure


Lead dust can also be brought into the home in several ways people don’t realize.  Shoes, hands, and clothing are some of the most common.  You should take extra precautions if you work in construction, demolition, painting, in a repair shop or a lead factory, or if you have a hobby involving lead.  It is also possible for the soil around a home to contain lead if the paint on the house or on a house or building near it does. To avoid the risk form these sources, always wipe your feet before entering a home and if the danger is great, remove your clothing before you go home and wash the clothes you wear when working with or near lead separately.  In addition, prevent children from playing in dirt and wash their hands whenever they come indoors.


It is rare that well or city water contains lead to begin with.  Most lead enters the drinking water in the home as it runs through household pipes made from leaded materials.  Testing water is the only way to know whether it contains lead.


How Diet Can Help


To minimize a child’s potential to absorb lead into their system encourages them to get plenty of iron and calcium in their diet.  Eggs, red meat, beans, and dairy products are great choices.  Also avoid the use of crystal glassware and imported pottery to store food.  The printing on plastic bags should be on the outside when using them to hold food items as well.