October 20-26 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, during which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) highlights the dangers of lead and the steps you can take to protect yourself and your family. While lead exposure has serious health implications, it is entirely preventable.
- The federal government banned the use of lead-containing paint, one of the most common causes of lead poisoning, in 1978. However, millions of older homes and buildings may still pose a serious health risk. Therefore, Massachusetts enacted its own Lead Law which requires that homes built before 1978 be inspected for lead paint if a child under the age of six lives there. If hazards are found, the home must be deleaded. The state’s Lead Law also holds building owners and landlords responsible for proper lead hazard management and liable for lead poisoning if it occurs in a child that lives in their property.
- Exposure to lead can negatively impact a person’s nervous and cardiovascular systems, decrease kidney function, and result in reproduction problems in adults. If absorbed by a pregnant woman, it can cause developmental issues in the fetus.
- Children’s growing bodies are more apt to absorb lead than adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to it. Lead exposure can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, resulting in learning, behavioral, and hearing problems, as well as slowed growth and anemia.
This year, prevention week focuses on “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future.” The goal of this effort is to educate parents and emphasize the importance of reducing a child’s exposure to lead. The Massachusetts Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program provides information and resources to promote the prevention and treatment of lead poisoning in children. There are several important things to remember to keep children safe:
- Get children tested. Children younger than 6 years old are at the highest risk and it is recommended to have them tested by age 1 or 2.
- Take precautions around the home. Clean often, and limit or prevent access to existing lead-contaminated materials.
- Nutrition is a temporary way to protect children. A diet high in calcium and iron, and low in fat can help prevent lead poisoning.
- Lead can be found in different environmental elements as well as in our homes and workplaces. Exposure can result from drinking contaminated water, ingesting food or liquids that have been stored or served in lead-containing handmade pots and dishes, or by breathing in lead dust. It is important to take steps to reduce lead exposure to avoid developing health issues.
- Know the lead inspection history of your property or one that you may move into.
- Have your home deleaded if it was built before 1978 to remove or cover up any lead-containing paint. You may be able to do some of these projects on your own, or a licensed deleading professional may be required.
- Renovate right. Disturbing lead paint can create dangerous dust. Licensed Lead-Safe renovation professionals have been trained on how to properly handle repair, renovation, and paint work in contaminated homes.
The aim of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is to increase awareness of this hazard. It is important that everyone knows the risks and what precautions can be taken so the threat of lead poisoning can be avoided altogether.
Join the conversation: tweet @massgov with your renovation or deleading project