Why is Lead a health risk?
Lead is a common metal which has been used over the years in many consumer products. It can still be found in lead-based paint and, under some conditions in air, soil, household dust, pottery, food, plumbing pipes and components, and drinking water. If it is inhaled or swallowed, lead can build up in the body over time. If too much lead enters the body, it can damage the brain, nervous system, red blood cells, and kidneys. Lead in drinking water can be a particular problem for infants who drink formula made with tap water. Pregnant women and nursing mothers also need to be concerned about lead levels in drinking water since it can be passed on to unborn children and breast-fed babies.
Exposure to Lead
Lead-based paints were used in many homes prior to its banning by the federal government in 1978. Lead-based paints, as the name implies, contains lead. Many documented cases of lead poisoning can be attributed to lead contamination resulting from the degradation of such paints. Lead-based paints in good condition pose little risk but those that begin to peel, chip, chalk, or crack do pose a health risk.
As lead-based paint products degrade lead can be released into the surrounding environment in the form of dust. Lead dust can also be formed and become airborne when lead-based paint is sanded or scrapped. Painted surfaces when rubbed together can also produce lead dust. The lead dust can settle and then become airborne again when disturbed by sweeping, vacuuming, or just walking through a contaminated area. Chips of paint flaking off of exterior surfaces can even cause ground contamination.
Lead in Your Home
It is sometimes better to just assume that if your home was build prior to 1980 it contains lead-based paints. Even though lead-based paints were banned in 1978, it is certain that some builders and paint supplies continued to sell and use existing stocks beyond that date. The Housing and Urban Development department of the federal government (HUD) has a 16 page brochure giving tips on dealing with lead paint