Lead is a highly toxic metal. Children under the age of six years are particularly vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning because it can affect the formation and connection of neurons while the nervous system is growing and developing. No level of lead in the blood has been found to be safe in children and even small amounts can affect children’s ability to learn, concentrate and achieve academically.
The effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed and it is therefore important to prevent lead exposure in children before it causes any damage. This involves identifying any lead hazards in the child’s environment so they can be controlled or removed.
In the US, lead-based paint and dust from peeling paint are the main lead hazards for children. Lead is also found in certain imported products such as some traditional medicines, cosmetics, spices, toys and ceramics. Certain vocations such as roofing, battery manufacture, pottery production, smelting, bronzing, pipe cutting, soldering and roofing can expose adults and their families to lead.
The use of paints containing lead when houses are being built was banned in 1978, but all houses built before then probably contain at least some lead-based paint, which causes a problem once it starts to deteriorate. Children who live in these older houses are therefore at the greatest risk of lead exposure.
Some of the measures people can take in the house to protect their families from lead poisoning are described below.
If people are renovating a house with lead-based paint, they should ensure the following:
To reduce exposure from other, non-residential sources of lead, the following measures can be taken: