March 2013 Health Beat

Reducing Lead Poisoning Risks…

Karen’s Kolumn is written by Karen Dolley, R.N. and Grange Friend… we appreciate her knowledge and her willingness to share!

Hazard WarningEvery year hundreds of children in Maine are poisoned by lead. Lead poisoning is hard to detect and many times there are no signs or symptoms until dangerous levels have accumulated. Lead can be very harmful to children under the age of six. Increased amounts of lead in children often build up over a period of months or even years. More than half of Maine homes may have lead paint in them. Lead was used in many products, including paint, before the risk to children was known. Paint purchased before 1978 still has lead in it. Exposure to lead is most common in buildings built before 1950 and in homes built before 1978 where repainting and/or remodeling was done.

Lead dust from old paint is the most common way children get lead poisoning. Lead dust can come from opening and closing old painted windows, peeling or chipped paint, repair and renovations done that disturb old paint like sanding or scraping, and worn painted floors and stairs. Less common places to find lead are in the soil around the foundations of old buildings, on old painted furniture and toys, imported painted toys and jewelry, lead pipes found in old plumbing, while participating in hobbies like stained glass and furniture refinishing, and in certain jobs like metal-cutting and recycling, construction work, and auto repair-especially with auto batteries.

Lead dust is found on many surfaces where children put their hands and play with their toys. Children then put their hands into their mouths. Lead dust enters their bodies and causes damage. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, hearing damage, speech delays, and lower intelligence. Lead can have serious and permanent effects on a child’s growth and development.

All children should have blood lead tests done at age 1 and at age 2. Your child may be at risk for lead exposure if you live in an older home, if your child spends a lot of time in an older home-like at day care, if your child puts everything into his or her mouth, if there is chipping or peeling paint close to where your child plays, or if your child is exposed to lead dust from a person living in the home working at a high risk job.

By law, lead hazards are identified by a Maine licensed lead inspector while doing a lead inspection. Maine DEP regulations define the paint conditions and amounts of lead in dust, soil, and water that may be considered a lead hazard. It is possible to have lead paint in a home without it being a lead hazard.

There are many things a parent or caregiver can do to reduce a child’s exposure to lead dust. Don’t scrape or sand old paint. If possible, avoid old house renovations until children are older. Pick up paint chips and throw then away. Wet mop floors where children play. Place barriers like furniture in front of old windows so that your child is not able to reach these areas. Wash the wood around windows and doors. Avoid opening and closing windows when possible. Vacuum with a HEPA filter vacuum cleaner. Don’t let children play in the dirt next to the house. Provide covered sand boxes and grassy areas to play in and around. Wash children’s hands, toys, and pacifiers frequently. Feed children at a clean table or in a high chair. Do not allow children to eat food off the floors. Wet clean vehicle interiors and child safety seats. If you work in a high risk environment, take your work clothes and shoes off in an enclosed area that is separate from the living area of your home. Put your work clothes in a covered container and wash them separately from other clothes. Shower before interacting with your child. Do not allow children to play with work shoes. Lead in water is not usually a problem but you can have your water tested for lead. Always use cold tap water for drinking and cooking. Always run your water for a few minutes if the tap has not been used in a while like first thing in the morning.

Go to to get more information or to request a free lead dust test kit. At your child’s 1 and 2 year old well child checks be sure to discuss lead testing with your child’s doctor.


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1 Comment

  1. Walter Boomsma

     /  March 1, 2013

    Just a quick note that paint manufactured for boats often includes some lead and should not be used for home projects!


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