As a buyer, seller, current or prospective homeowner, renter, or landlord, it is imperative to learn about lead paint and the effect it has on our homes and health.
Lead paint is a paint containing lead chromate or carbonate as pigments. The added lead also increased drying speed, durability, maintained a fresh appearance, and resisted moisture. Therefore, it became widely used for domestic purposes such as interior painting. While some countries today still use lead based paints, the United States and United Kingdom have regulations prohibiting usage.
What is the Lead Paint law?
The Lead Law requires the removal or covering of lead paint hazards in homes built before 1978 where any children under six live. Lead paint hazards include loose lead paint and lead paint on windows or other surfaces accessible to children. If a home is found to not be in compliance with the lead law and a child under the age of six is currently in residence or will be in residence, the home must be deleaded or brought under interim control within 90 days of taking the home’s title.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is a disease affecting all types of people, but is most dangerous to children. Lead poisoning can cause permanent damage to a child’s brain, kidneys, and nervous system, as well as result in serious learning and behavior problems. Affected children can also have stunted growth and damaged red blood cells.
Lead poisoning typically occurs when children swallow lead paint dust; they do not have to chew on leaded surfaces or eat paint chips to become poisoned. Most poisoning happens through typical child behaviors such as chewing on toys or putting hands in their mouths. If their bodies or toys have been exposed to lead dust, they can ingest it and become poisoned. Soil and water can also be contaminated with lead; children can be exposed if they eat vegetables or fruit grown in such soil or if the soil is tracked into the home and ingested by the child.
Most children who have lead poisoning have no symptoms, and usually a blood test is required to determine lead levels. Massachusetts requires annual lead testing for all children between the ages of 9 months and 4 years. If a parent or caregiver is unsure if their child has been tested for lead, they should consult with their doctor.
Once diagnosed with lead poisoning, the first step is removing the hazard from the child’s environment. Moving forward, medical treatment is often dependent on the lead levels in the child’s bloodstream. Special drugs can be administered for as long as several weeks to remove toxicity. Afterwards, the child will need to have frequent blood tests to look for further signs of lead, and should be monitored or even tested for learning disorders.
Are children the only ones at risk with lead?
While the effects on children are more severe, lead is harmful to anyone it comes in contact with. An unborn child can be harmed should the mother come in contact with or ingest lead. Lead poisoning in adults can cause high blood pressure, fertility complications, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory loss, problems concentrating, and muscle and joint pain.
For adults, most lead poisoning occurs through occupational hazards or home renovation. Even hobby supplies such as stained glass, bullets, and fishing sinkers can expose people to lead. Those who are exposed to lead due to their job are required by law to have blood screenings for lead once a year.
Lead exposure is serious business, and homeowners should be well informed as to how to protect themselves, their loved ones, and any tenants them may have. Tune in for our next blog on How to Test for Lead in your home.