How to Protect Your Family from Dangerous Lead Exposure

( – Dangers to your family can come in many forms. You might prepare for inclement weather, transportation issues, and even stranger danger, but one of the most insidious threats to your family could be hidden in your home.

Houses built prior to 1978 likely contain lead-based paint, which was later banned by the federal government due to the significant dangers of lead poisoning. Approximately 87% of homes built before 1940 contain lead-based paint. Homes built between 1960-1978 have a 24% chance of lead being used in the home.

Even if you don’t own a home constructed before 1978, your family still might not be in the clear. Lead exposure can happen in lawns and playgrounds. It can be found in your drinking water. You can even risk exposure at work or when engaging in hobbies.

To keep your family safe, let’s review the dangers of lead exposure and how you can protect yourself and your family.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

Exposure to lead can cause the chemical to build up in your body, leading to a variety of health problems. High levels of exposure can be fatal. Children are considered particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead exposure, although anyone can be susceptible. The symptoms of lead poisoning include, but aren’t limited to, the following:

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children

  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental delays
  • Weight loss
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Irritability

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Adults

  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Mood disorders
  • Abdominal pain
  • High blood pressure
  • Reduced fertility
  • Miscarriage
  • Headaches

Staying Safe from Lead Exposure in Your Home

Make sure to keep your windows, doors, stairs, railings, banisters, and porches in good shape. These areas often deteriorate from use over time. Lead-based paint that peels, chips, or otherwise deteriorates presents a safety issue requiring immediate attention. Keep these high-traffic areas painted and dusted regularly to prevent lead exposure from occurring.

Contact a certified lead professional before beginning any repairs, renovations, or painting projects in your older home. These professionals can help you stay safe when maintaining your property.

Keep in mind that older household items can present a danger as well. For many years, lead was used in toys, cosmetics, furniture, jewelry, and even plumbing materials. Jewelry or toys handed down in the family could actually present a risk of lead poisoning. Many of these items have been recalled over the years, but you might not be aware if they’ve been passed down or purchased secondhand. It’s important to get rid of products likely to contain lead. If your child puts these toys in their mouth, see a healthcare provider to request a blood test to check for lead poisoning.

Staying Safe in Your Garden

Be sure to take precautions to keep your family safe around the lawn and garden as well. Check for damaged and peeling paint on the outside of your home. The soil around your home can be contaminated from chipping paint as well as other environmental hazards such as leaded gasoline and nearby industrial sources. Keeping paint in good condition on the outside of your home can minimize potential lead exposure.

To keep outdoor environmental contaminants from entering your home, place doormats around every entry and remove your shoes before entering. It’s also important to wash your hands any time you transition from the outdoors to your indoor environment to reduce possible contamination.

Staying Safe with Work and Hobbies

Many jobs and hobbies can put you at risk of lead poisoning. Lead is often used in fishing sinkers, pottery glazes, stained glass, hunting ammunition, and older construction materials. Avoid handling food or touching your face or mouth during or after handling materials that could contain lead. Wash your hands regularly throughout the day, and shower and change clothes immediately upon arriving home. It’s even advisable to launder clothes exposed to lead separately from the rest of your family’s clothing.

Monitoring Your Drinking Water

Plumbing materials containing lead can put your drinking water at risk. Check the water quality report in your area by visiting the EPA website. To keep yourself and your family safe, take the following safety measures:

  • Use a filter with your drinking water.
  • Drink or cook only with cold tap water as warm or hot water increases the risk of lead coming through your tap.
  • Drink bottled water only in areas where you are at higher risk of contamination through tap water.

Lead exposure is common due to the presence of older homes and industrial contaminants in the environment. By taking a few basic safety measures, you can reduce your exposure and minimize your family’s risk of lead poisoning.

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