1. What is lead?
  2. What is lead poisoning?
  3. Where do people get exposed to lead?
  4. Who is at risk?
  5. What are the symptoms?
  6. What should I know as a home buyer?
  7. What should I know as a seller?
  8. What is the difference between “lead-free” and “lead-safe”?
  9. How can I prevent lead poisoning?
  10. How can I make sure there is no lead in my home?
  1. What is lead?
    Lead, which has a symbol of Pb (from Latin: plumbum) and atomic number 82 is a naturally occurring heavy metal found in the earth’s crust. Metallic lead is soft and has a bluish-white color after being freshly cut. It quickly tarnishes to a dull grayish color when exposed to air and has a shiny chrome-silver luster when melted into a liquid. 

    Lead is commonly used in rechargeable lead-acid car batteries, radiation shields in hospitals, solders in construction, and fusible alloys for temperature-sensitive safety devices.

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  2. What is lead poisoning?
    Lead poisoning was amongst the first known and most widely studied work in environmental hazards. Medically, it is also known as plumbism, colica Pictonum, saturnism, Devon colic, or painter’s colic and is a condition caused by increased levels of lead in the body over a period of months or years. Clinical studies have shown that at certain level of lead in the body can potentially be disruptive to a large variety of body processes and is toxic to many organ and tissues including the bones, nervous system, and reproductive systems. Because lead interferes with the development of the nervous
    system, i.e. brain development, it is therefore particularly toxic to children and can cause potentially permanent learning and behavior disorders. 

    More information can be found at the following links:

     
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  3. Where do people get exposed to lead?
    The most commonly known source of lead exposure at home stems from lead-based paint. Lead-based paint can be found in older homes on walls and woodwork, and also in older plumbing systems. Lead can also be found in the following sources: 

    • Soil may contain lead particles from leaded gasoline or paint, which can linger for years
    • Household dust from old lead paint chips or tracked in along with contaminated soil
    • Pottery may contain glazes containing lead
    • Older toys or toys from abroad
    • Some imported canned goods
    • Kohl and other traditional cosmetics
    • Traditional remedies such as greta, litargirio, ba-baw-san, ghasard, and daw tway.

     
    Further reading on causes of lead poisoning:

     
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  4. Who is at risk?
    Children under six years of age are particularly at risk due to both their rapid growth and tendency to place objects or their hands into their mouths. The risk is escalated even more for children living at or below the poverty line since that generally involves living in older housing. Brain imaging studies suggest that exposure to lead at moderate levels during childhood can permanently alter important brain chemical levels later in life. These risks also include unborn children so pregnant women should also take extra care in avoiding lead exposure. 

    Some adults may be at greater risk due to their jobs. Examples of jobs that may involve higher risk to lead exposure include police who use firearms, auto repair shops, home renovators, mining, and battery manufacturers. Certain hobbies can increase risk of lead poisoning too, such as working with stained glass, hunting, fishing, making pottery, or dealing with older toys or furniture.

    Additional information can be found at the following links:

     
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  5. What are the symptoms?
    Unfortunately, symptoms of lead poisoning generally do not appear until dangerous amounts of lead have accumulated and vary depending on age. 

    Infants:

    • Slow growth
    • Learning difficulties

     
    Children:

    • Irritability
    • Fatigue
    • Learning difficulties
    • Weight loss
    • Hearing problems
    • Stomach pain
    • Loss of appetite
    • Vomiting
    • Constipation

     
    Adults:

    • Pain or numbness of extremities
    • Reduced mental functionality
    • Memory loss
    • Muscle and joint pain
    • Headaches
    • Reproductive issues
    • High blood pressure
    • Digestive problems
    • Mood disorders

     
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  6. What should I know as a home buyer?
    Many homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint. The older the home is, the more likely it may contain lead. Even after paint is removed, lead can still be found in nearby soil that may have absorbed exterior paint or other sources. Contaminated dust is another possible source of lead either from deteriorating lead-based paint or from soil tracked into the home. Plumbing containing lead might also result in lead content in the water supply. 

    Federal law requires that individuals are given certain information before renting or buying pre-1978 homes. It is important to learn about all potential hazards involving lead-based paint as well as how to address the issues before you move in.

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  7. What should I know as a seller?
    You must provide prospective buyers with EPA-approved information on identifying and controlling lead-based hazards. You are also required to disclose information, records, and reports pertaining to lead-based hazards in the home. Some states may require an attachment that includes a Lead Warning Statement that must be signed by all parties, and home buyers must also be allowed a 10-day period to conduct a paint inspection or risk assessment. If this applies to you, be sure to read the statement carefully. 

    For more details, read about The Lead Disclosure Rule on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website.

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  8. What is the difference between “lead-free” and “lead-safe”?
    Generally speaking, “lead-free” refers to products that either contain no lead or are unlikely to contain lead while “lead-safe” is used to describe products that contain trace amounts of lead that are within the established federal safety limits. However, there are variances on the definitions depending on the category of products. Different states may impose different definitions as well. 

    The latest safety standards set by the EPA considers lead as a hazard when the quantity of lead equals or exceeds the following amounts:

    • 40 micrograms in dust per square foot on floors
    • 250 micrograms in dust per square foot on interior window sills
    • 400 parts per million (ppm) in bare soil in children’s play areas
    • 1200 ppm average for bare soil in other areas of the yard

     
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  9. How can I prevent lead poisoning?
    Fortunately, lead poisoning prevention can be fairly simple and straightforward such as washing hands and cleaning dusty surfaces (window sills, door frames, railings, etc.) with a damp cloth. To minimize the risk of lead exposure from older piping, run your water for at least a minute before using. Also avoid using hot tap water for consumption. For children, regularly wash their hands and toys and avoid allowing them to play on bare soil. 

    If you are rennovating an older home, make sure you don’t use sanding or an open flame torch as a means of removing old paint. Instead, you should paint over it or cover it with paneling, dry wall, or encapsulation depending on the condition of the old paint. Make sure you wear protective clothing, which should be washed separately from your other clothes, and if possible shower and wash your hair before leaving the job site.

    More prevention tips can be found at the following links:

     
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  10. How can I make sure there is no lead in my home?
    You can hire a licensed lead inspector to inspect the paint in your home. To also test for dust, you can hire a risk assessor or a sampling technician to take dust samples and send them to a laboratory for analysis.  

    Alternately, you can order a dust sampling kit and perform the test yourself. You will also need to send them into the lab but you will get the results directly and is a less expensive process. An order form can be found on the National Safety Council website.

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  11. Have a question you don’t see listed? Please feel free to contact us.