Lead is a naturally occurring element found in almost every part of our environment, from the soil, water, air, and even your own home. Until 1978, when the United States banned its use in residential and commercial construction, many common household items and construction materials contained lead. When ingested, the dangerous substance can cause irreparable damage to bodily systems, particularly in children. It’s essential to know the common symptoms of lead poisoning and familiarize yourself with the appropriate resources so you and your family can avoid any serious health issues in the future.
What Is Lead?
Lead is a toxic metal that naturally occurs in the Earth’s crust, typically used to manufacture paints, glass, batteries, and other products. The substance is a cumulative toxicant that can cause severe health problems to multiple body systems over time, so no exposure level is safe. If your home was built before 1978, there is a high chance it contains some sources of lead. If you suspect that you or a resident of your home is experiencing lead poisoning symptoms, it’s crucial to act quickly to minimize the long-term effects of the affliction.
Lead Poisoning Symptoms
Lead poisoning can cause severe long-term health issues or exacerbate existing ones for those affected. Unfortunately, lead poisoning is especially common in children, so it’s vitally important to know how to identify symptoms and respond swiftly. Symptoms of lead poisoning include:
- Fatigue and weight loss
- Vomiting and dehydration
- Constipation and stomach pain
- Hearing loss
- Migraines and headaches
- Learning and developmental delays
- Fertility issues in men and women
- Exposure to developing fetuses
Lead poisoning impacts existing conditions in adults like mood disorders, blood pressure, and memory issues. Young children are significantly more susceptible to lead’s toxic effects, primarily affecting the brain and nervous system development. There is an endless number of resources available for homeowners who suspect the presence of lead in their homes or potential lead poisoning.
8 Essential Lead Safety Resources for Homeowners
Whether you own or rent your home or apartment, familiarizing yourself with readily available resources is an essential part of preventing lead poisoning for you and your household members. Several local, state, and federal agencies and organizations work tirelessly to prevent lead poisoning in children and adults. We’ve compiled an extensive list of eight lead safety resources that are essential in protecting resident’s health:
1. CDC Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention created a dedicated program in the early 1990s to prevent (and hopefully entirely eliminate) childhood lead poisoning. The public health program strives to strengthen blood lead testing and reports, increase lead inspections and surveillance, and link affected families to the appropriate services.
2. EPA Lead Risk Reduction Program
Another useful resource for child lead poisoning prevention is the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Lead Risk Reduction Program. This program’s primary goals are to reduce elevated blood lead levels in low-income children and other at-risk communities or communities of color. The Lead Risk Reduction Program actively works to reduce lead-based paint exposure through public outreach, regulations, and certification or training programs for lead construction.
3. HUD Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes
Local and state governments utilize funding from the OLHCHH to develop cost-effective lead-based paint hazard reduction protocols. The office also enforces lead paint regulations, conducts studies on lead poisoning’s health impacts, and provides technical support and public outreach to protect children and families from lead-related health hazards.
4. National Center for Healthy Housing’s Lead-Safe Toolkit for Homes
The National Center for Healthy Housing offers an extensive list of essential lead poisoning prevention resources for homeowners and property managers. The organization crafts informative lead-safe toolkits for homes, schools, and childcare centers. The NCHH also provides at-risk families with connections to financial assistance for lead inspections and repairs.
5. National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
Each year, the EPA works in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and CDC to raise awareness and provide resources to homeowners and property managers during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. The program typically occurs at the end of October and aims to encourage preventive actions to lower childhood lead exposure levels.
6. WHO’s International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week
Another entity providing a lead poisoning prevention week on a global scale is the World Health Organization (WHO). The annual effort aims to draw attention to the dangerous health impacts of prolonged lead exposure, particularly in children. The WHO hopes International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week will help accelerate preventive efforts and phase out lead paint use worldwide.
7. Coalition To Prevent Lead Poisoning
The Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning is an organization that provides educational resources and advocates for eliminating childhood lead poisoning. You can find informative materials that empower communities and households to terminate the toxic substance in building materials.
8. EPA Lead-Safe Construction Certifications
While the United States government officially banned using lead-paint and lead-contaminated materials in new construction after 1978, there is still a staggering number of homes containing traces of the dangerous substance. Working with an EPA-certified lead construction contractor can help reduce the risk of contamination during renovations or repairs on your home. Workers receive extensive training on best practices and safety precautions when disturbing lead-contaminated materials. Different lead-related construction tasks require unique lead-safe worker accreditations, including certifications for:
- Risk assessment
- Dust sampling
Ensure the contractor you choose has all the necessary EPA certifications before completing any home improvement project. Highly trained lead renovation and abatement specialists will keep residents protected during construction by following best practices and safety protocols.
Renovating Lead-Contaminated Homes
If your home contains lead-contaminated materials, keep lead poisoning prevention resources in reach in case of a lead-related emergency. Even with dedicated legislation and public health programs and initiatives, there is still a substantial risk of lead poisoning in children and adults living in older homes. Homeowners planning a home improvement project in a lead-contaminated home must acquire an EPA-certified lead construction company to complete repairs, renovations, or abatement. Construction companies can contact an accredited training program to learn the best practices to promote safety in lead-contaminated construction zones.