Where is Lead Found in the Home?
Lead can be found in a variety of places in and outside the house. These exposures include jewelry, painted interior and exterior walls, furniture, toys, china, pottery, porcelain figurines, imported cosmetics, some imported candies, plumbing, the soil outside the house and household dust which can contain up to 80% of outdoor soil particles.1 Even items labeled as “lead free” can contain up to 8% lead if the items were manufactured before January 4, 2014.2
Many believe lead contaminated soil is only a problem near industrial areas. Unfortunately, there were the more than 60 years in which millions of automobiles across the nation burned leaded gasoline. The resulting exhaust fumes belched out 4-5 million tons of lead particles which the wind continues to distribute across city and suburban lawns, gardens, parks, playgrounds and schoolyards. Hence, every neighborhood close to a roadway is likely to contain lead. Until there is a cost-efficient means to remediate, this lead will remain in the soil where susceptible children live and play.
How Do You Know if Something Has Lead in It?
The surest way to confirm lead content is to engage a certified and licensed lead inspector. There are however, home testing kits. Available at home improvement centers and hardware stores, these do-it-yourself products usually contain a swap stick that changes color when touched to paint containing lead. Other kits (including those for testing water) come with containers that let you collect samples for sending into independent laboratories for analysis.
What Can be Done to Avoid Lead Exposure?
First precaution is to identify the sources of lead in the house. Unless otherwise confirmed, all suspected items should be treated as if they contain lead. With respect to suspicious painted surfaces, it is not recommended to abate the lead without consulting a professional or at least reviewing all the proper safety precautions necessary when dealing with lead paint. Incorrect procedures can make bad situations worse.
When young children are in the house, care should be taken to maintain painted surfaces in good condition. Special attention should be paid to any areas with peeling or chipping paint as these areas pose the biggest risk of accidental inhalation or ingestion of lead paint chips or lead dust Children should also be kept away from old toys jewelry, porcelain and pottery products and particularly small items children can put into their mouths.
Another important way to reduce exposure from lead contaminated soil is to remove shoes when coming into the house. Vacuuming carpets with vacuums equipped with HEPA filters, wet-mopping floors, and wiping down horizontal surfaces like table tops and windowsills should be done regularly. Special attention should be directed at regular cleaning of children’s play areas and toys.
Planting grass on bare soil or covering these areas with mulch or wood chips will reduce exposure levels
from the lead contained soil common in city and suburban properties.
Other ways to limit contact with lead include:
- Avoiding candy imported from Mexico.
- Do not use containers, cookware, or tableware which are not known to be lead free.
- Use cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula since hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead leached from plumbing pipes. (EPA estimates lead in water causes 10% – 20% of all overall lead poisoning.)3
- Thoroughly washing hands and clothing after playing or working outside.
- Do not where shoes inside the house.
- Shower and change clothes after finishing a task that involves working with lead-based products such as stained glass, making bullets, or using a firing range.
Are There Disclosure Requirement for Lead?
As part of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 (also known as Title X), sellers and landlords must disclose any known information concerning lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards before ratifying a contract for sale or lease of a home. Although Title X is a federal standard, the legal consequences for nondisclosure of lead hazards are determined by individual states and can therefore vary based on location.
- Estimates of the Relative Contribution of Exterior Soil to House Dust, Paustenbach et al, Elsevier Ltd, 1997
- Summary of The Reduction of Lead in Drinking Water Act And Frequently Asked Questions, EPA, 2013. Web. <http://water.epa.gov/drink/info/lead/upload/epa815s13001.pdf>
- Actions You Can Take To Reduce Lead In Drinking Water, EPA website, Water: Lead, EPA 810-F-93-00, retrieved October 30, 2014