When do you need a lead inspection?
Lead is a naturally occurring mineral which can have serious health effects on people. It is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children. Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones, is stored in the teeth and bones, and exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in the blood. Lead in bone is released into blood during pregnancy and becomes a source of exposure to the developing fetus.
There is no level of exposure to lead that is known to be without harmful effects however lead exposure is preventable – Source: WHO
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children. Other sources include contaminated air, water and soil. Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations or work in auto repair shops also might be exposed to lead.
There is treatment for lead poisoning, but taking some simple precautions can help protect you and your family from lead exposure before harm is done.
Symptoms of lead poisoning (Source: Mayo Clinic)
Initially, lead poisoning can be hard to detect — even people who seem healthy can have high blood levels of lead. Signs and symptoms usually don’t appear until dangerous amounts have accumulated.
Lead poisoning symptoms in children
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:
Developmental delay, Learning difficulties, Irritability, Loss of appetite, Weight loss, Sluggishness and fatigue, Abdominal pain, Vomiting, Constipation, Hearing loss, Seizures
Lead poisoning symptoms in newborns
Babies exposed to lead before birth might be born prematurely, have lower birth weight or have slowed growth.
Lead poisoning symptoms in adults
Although children are primarily at risk, lead poisoning is also dangerous for adults. Signs and symptoms in adults might include:
high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headache, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count and abnormal sperm, miscarriage, stillbirth or premature birth in pregnant women.
Practical solutions for managing lead paint
If your home was built before 1978:
Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, with a damp paper towel and throw away the paper towel, mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust, take off shoes when entering the house, vacuum carpets and upholstery to remove dust.
Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a “higher efficiency” collection bag, pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel, take precautions to avoid creating lead dust when remodeling, renovating or maintaining your home.
Of course, the best solution is to have a certified lead tester test for lead hazards.
Lead tests in your home
If your home was built before 1978, have your home tested for lead and learn about potential lead hazards. Fix any hazards that you may have. You can get your home checked in one or both of the following ways:
A lead paint inspection — Tells you the lead content of every different type of painted surface in your home, but does not tell you if the paint is a hazard or how to deal with it. This is most appropriate when you are buying a home or signing a lease, before you renovate, and to help you determine how to maintain your home for lead safety.
A lead risk assessment — Tells you if there are any sources of serious lead exposure such as peeling paint and lead dust, and tells you what actions to take to address these hazards. This is most helpful if you want to know if lead is causing exposure to your family now.
Have qualified professionals do the work. There are standards in place for certifying lead-based paint professionals to ensure the work is done safely, reliably, and effectively. You can have a combined risk assessment and inspection.