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Question of the Week: What have you done to protect children from lead poisoning?

2008 October 20

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Lead is highly toxic and can cause serious health problems in sensitive groups such as children. If you are buying or renting a home or apartment built before 1978, inquire about lead hazards. Also, home renovation can generate a lot of dust if the work area isn’t properly contained and cleaned.

What have you done to protect children from lead poisoning?


En español: Cada semana hacemos una pregunta relacionada al medio ambiente. Por favor comparta con nosotros sus pensamientos y comentarios. Siéntase en libertad de responder a comentarios anteriores o plantear nuevas ideas. Preguntas previas.

El plomo es altamente tóxico y puede ocasionar serios problemas de salud en grupos susceptibles como los niños. Si va a comprar o alquilar un hogar o apartamento construido antes de 1978, infórmese acerca de los peligros del plomo. Además, la remodelación puede generar mucho polvo si el área de trabajo de la remodelación no es contenida y limpiada debidamente.

¿Qué ha hecho para proteger a los niños del envenenamiento por plomo?

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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59 Responses leave one →
  1. Mark permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I tell my kids not to eat the paint. It’s really not that complicated.

  2. Yolanda James permalink
    October 20, 2008

    We only drink bottled water. This has reduced my daughter’s lead count from 10 to 7?

  3. Kerry permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I think a better question is what has the EPA done lately to protect children from the asbestos materials still in their schools?

  4. Gail Root permalink
    October 20, 2008

    When I worked for the Environmental Division of the Niagara County Health Department I made a banner that was covered with over 100 hand made rag dolls. Each signified a child in the county that had been determined to have had an elevated blood lead level over a 2 year period of time. The banner was displayed at soup kitchens and various sites throughout the county.

  5. Tom Milczarczyk permalink
    October 20, 2008

    This is a stupid question!

  6. Darrel Wubben permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I being a painting contractor have made both physical and vocal awareness of lead poisoning. I have made speeches and also printed matters on the dangers of lead poisoning.

  7. Greg Robinson permalink
    October 20, 2008

    My wife boil the water for kids to drink, is that good and were can I buy a test kit fro lead testing on toys and kids dishes.

  8. Lisa permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I think this is a valid question because it helps people understand the importance of lead poisoning.

    The EPA is trying and just doing what the majority of citizens are requiring, why aren’t most people willing to do their part?

    “vote with your dollars”

  9. pat jones permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I have made sure that all gifts that are bought for children are made without lead paint…I asked about each gift…

  10. Bill S. permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I don’t think it’s a stupid question – all parents should be the ones primarily responsible for protecting their kids from environmental hazards – but neither is it a very smart one. It seems to assume that all parents know that lead is particularly hazardous to children and that parents also know how and where these hazards exist in an older house. I don’t think parents are sufficiently informed about the hazards. Therefore, better questions might be “Are you aware that when purchasing or renting a pre-1978 home or apartment, the owner is required by law to provide you with information about lead paint hazards and also that renovators must be certified in safe work practices when working with lead paint in houses where there are children?” The answers (“yes” or “no”) might not make for entertaining reading, but the messages (“Make sure you get that information and check the credentials of renovators!”) would be more powerful and valuable. EPA should educate people before it starts quizzing them.

  11. Sarah permalink
    October 20, 2008

    There are many programs and people that work hard to help prevent lead poisoning. Each and every one deserves an award, raise, or at least a big HUG. :) Thank You.

    I personally fight lead poisoning by standing up,and speaking out against, and taking EXTREME offense to the attitude that the lead paint problem is as simple as “uneducated inner-city parents allowing children to eat paint chips.”

    Until we change this stero-type, the lead issue will not go away.

  12. Zalman Saperstein permalink
    October 20, 2008

    Thanks for doing something to prevent lead poisoning. When will you ban lead in general aviation gasoline (AV100LL) so that poor children, forced to live near airports where rents and homes cost less, are unknowingly exposed to lead containing exhaust and vapors? The EPA must act to ban lead in general aviation gasoline that currently accounts to over 1 million pounds of lead emissions annually into air, especially near airports where propeller driven planes are flown.

  13. Richard Rabin permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I have helped to make a short documentary film on lead poisoning and the lead paint industry: “The Child is the Canary.” Also, I am assisting the film producer in seeking funding for a full-length version of the film.

  14. Margaret permalink
    October 20, 2008

    Hot water dissovles lead more easily than cold water. Cold flushed water (run your tap for 15-30 seconds, if it hasn’t been used in 6 or more hours) should be used for preparing infant food, cooking and drinking. Most hardware stores sell lead testing kits or you could find them on-line.

  15. Joan permalink
    October 20, 2008

    Like Pat points out above, there are other sources for lead besides paint.
    I have tried to be more careful when buying dishes or food storage containers… so much of what we buy now is imported from countries where environmental enforcement is lax. I no longer buy such items at my local “dollar” store because I don’t know what contaminants may leach out of them into the food we eat.

  16. Utah Chris permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I don’t buy toys made in China where they must have a BIG TIME PROBLEM with lead poisoning throughout their countries children, because they don’t seem to concerned about sending contaminated toys to our kids.

  17. Philip J Mole" permalink
    October 20, 2008

    We do not purchase toys from China—USEPA should mandate lead testing on all imports re; toys, tooth paste, baby formulas–All imports should carry the USEPA seal of approval to be certified by the importer distributor, (like; UL Label)

    Importers required to substantiate lab reports by lot, year & require annual reports like the Form R.

  18. kchick permalink
    October 20, 2008

    Hi, Greg
    The EPA website about lead says that “Home test kits for lead are available, but studies suggest that they are not always accurate. Consumers should not rely on these tests before doing renovations or to assure safety.”

    For more information about this topic,

    Kelly Chick, EPA Blog Team

  19. Greg Hill, RS, MPH permalink
    October 20, 2008

    You should not limit your discreation of purchases from China to toys only. I’ve found extremely elevated lead levels of vinyl mini-blinds. The two main routes of lead into the blood stream are from injestion or inhilation. Inhilation (breathing in lead dust) is the fasted route of poison with a higher absortion rate than eating lead paint.

    Vinyl breaks down over a period of time from sunlight, if you have a house that has a child with elevated Blood Lead Levels and you are not sure of the cause, inspect your vinyl mini-blinds for teeth marks or ask yourself if you have dusted the blinds in the recent past. The best thing to do is replace the blinds. DO NOT DUST CLEAN MINI-BLINDS….remove and replace them with new ones.

  20. Julianne permalink
    October 20, 2008

    I am a public health nurse. I mail a letter and Lead poisoning prevention literature to each family whose child under the age of 4 has a lead level of 4-9 mcg./dL. Studies published since 2000 have shown that these children are at risk for cognitive deficits. A repeat blood lead level is recommended within 3 months.

  21. What we have done to prevent our children from getting lead poisoning permalink
    October 20, 2008

    For one year we have kept Pennsylvania water company from using chloramine to disinfect our drinking water. Chloramines leach lead from the water pipes in our homes. Most of the homes in our community were built before 1978. Our court hearing is scheduled for October 28-30. Chloramine is cheap and not a state of the art
    method to disinfect drinking water. The Washington, D.C. history must not be repeated in our community. Consult the research of Dr. Marc Edwards–Virginia Tech.

  22. The Health Councils permalink
    October 21, 2008

    Our non profit agency just wrapped up a one year EPA funded Lead Education and Awareness Project (LEAP) for three counties in Florida. The Project developed a long term Strategic Plan; developed and disseminated a Physician Tool Kit to 200 family practice and pediatric doctors; provided 4 Train the Trainers sessions for community members; hosted 2 Safe Work Practice trainings for construction workers; developed a video of the Train the Trainer sessions; and used paid ads and feature stories to raise awareness through the local media (papers and radio). Materials are available on our website at or contact me for more information.

  23. Matt permalink
    October 21, 2008

    This is being addressed through the latest reduction in national ambient air quality standard for lead. The 10x reduction and revised non-attainment areas will lead to reducing lead in the air. This is not an environmental justice issue, no one is forced to live near airparks, low-cost housing is available outside these areas.

  24. Matt permalink
    October 21, 2008

    Only renovators working in HUD housing are required to have taken the joint HUD/EPA trianing course. In April 2010, all renovation done in pre-1978 housing where a child under 6 resides or frequents will a certified renovation firm be required to perform the work. Other sources of lead are structures that used lead soulder, soils adjacent to highways and in the vicinity of lead smelters and the latest Chinese toys. Bill is right perhaps a better question is “What source of lead are people aware of?”

  25. Kathy Casson permalink
    October 21, 2008

    As a landlord, beyond the required disclosures, I’ve:
    -Tested soil for lead.
    -Put in raised beds.
    -Replaced windows with old paint with new double pane windows.
    -Kept up paint to avoid peeling.
    -Put lead-safe practices into all contracts with painters.

    As a neighbor:
    I’ve given EPA brochures to neighbors I see using improprer renovation techniques such as dry sanding.

  26. Bill S. permalink
    October 21, 2008

    Matt is correct: the rule requiring that renovation contractors be certified does not take effect until April 2010. As I said, the public needs to be educated, including myself!

  27. Michael Fallon permalink
    October 21, 2008

    I am now a Project Geologist but during college days I ran a painting business. We used to properly remove the lead paint and repaint and clean the areas eliminating exposure to children and pets.

  28. Anonymous permalink
    October 21, 2008

    Well said.

  29. Melanie permalink
    October 21, 2008

    Unless the asbestos containing material has become worn, friable, and airborne it does not generally pose a health risk. In order to cause harm, asbestos fibers must become airborne where they may be breathed in. Asbestos was used in many building materials including floor tiles, carpet and tile glue, laboratory-type bench and countertops, and insulating materials. Insulation poses the greatest risk for become friable and damaged and therefore has the greatest potential for harm. However, if the material is in good repair and is being managed properly then the money that could be spent on abatement may be better used to further the education of our children. And, yes, my own children do attend school where asbestos-containing materials are present.

  30. Jennifer Taggart, The Smart Mama permalink
    October 21, 2008

    I think some of the comments indicate that much education is still necessary to reduce the hazards associated with lead. Lead paint is a problem not only from ingestion of lead paint chips, but also lead contaminated dust generated from friction surfaces (painted drawers or doors or window sills) rubbing together in homes constructed prior to 1978. Your child doesn’t have to eat lead paint chips to be exposed to lead. Just picking up lead contaminated dust from mouthing activities or hand to mouth contact can do it. Plus, we get lead contaminated dust blown into our homes from weathering of structures or tracked into our homes from lead contaminated dirt as a result of lead’s use as a gasoline additive. Other sources of lead include painted furniture – especially with the eco-friendly salvaging and reclaiming movement. We get lead from painted toys, as well as vinyl toys (lead is used as a stabilizer in PVC). We get lead in vitamins (see FDA’s website), lead in drinking water as a result of our pipes, fittings and fixtures, lead in herbal remedies, lead as a result of its use in avgas and lead from brass keys. Lead also leaches from low fire ceramics, particularly homemade and Mexican style pottery.

    More education is needed. I use an XRF analyzer (xray fluorescence) to test household goods, including toys, to demonstrate to parents that lead hazards remain. It is part of my consulting business. That piece of equipment is a real eye opener for parents. And simple steps can reduce exposure – wash hands regularly, use a HEPA equipped vacuum, wet wipe since lead dust is sticky, take off your shoes before entering the home, etc.


  31. Richard Rabin permalink
    October 22, 2008

    For those interested in drinking water and lead pipes, you might check out the article, “The Lead Industry and Lead Water Pipes: ‘a Modest Campaign,'” in the American Journal of Public Health, Sept. 2008. (

  32. issyDC permalink
    October 23, 2008

    Gosh Mark, “eat the paint”? That’s such an old stereotype! The most common pathway for children now is lead contaminated dust. That dust results from paint in poor repair or simply on old window frames or floors painted with lead paint that due to normal use release lead laiden dust. Young children ingest this leaded dust (if they live in lead contaminated environments) through their normal hand-to-mouth play activity.

    Education about the issues is the first step in protecting our children.

  33. Ralph Scott permalink
    October 23, 2008

    I notice that there’s a mix of correct and erroneous information among the posts to the blog this week. The Alliance for Healthy Homes (formerly the Alliance to End Childhood Lead Poisoning) has a web site with a great deal of information on this topic ( The Alliance is a national organization that’s been working for 18 years to eliminate and prevent lead poisoning. The Alliance works for affordable, healthy, lead-safe housing mainly through policy advocacy and helping build the capacity of communities to address substandard housing. Thanks to EPA for choosing this question in observance of National Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Week!

  34. Yvonika permalink
    October 25, 2008

    My wife boil the water for kids to drink, is that good and were can I buy a test kit fro lead testing on toys and kids dishes.

  35. Shelly Parulis permalink
    October 25, 2008

    I have dedicated thousands of hours notifying former NAF Atsugi base residents who were exposed to toxic chemicals while living in base housing the adverse affects of heavy metals poisoning, specifically lead and provide educational links, such as for facts and information and encourage environmental protection of all our children.

  36. Linda permalink
    October 27, 2008

    Lead is a very soft metal, so it leaches very easily into hot water.
    Boiling water kills disease-causing organisms such as bacteria, but it
    does nothing to reduce the presence of lead from old metal pipes and
    lead based solder

  37. Jeff V.S. permalink
    October 28, 2008

    What about the lead in schools? With all the deferred maintenance, I see paint chips along the ground and worn/chipped handrails and poles exposing the orange metal primer. Most of my local schools were built in the 1940-50’s when lead was very common in paint.

  38. Jeff V.S. permalink
    October 28, 2008

    Boiling water does not reduce or eliminate lead from the water since it is a heavy metal, not a volatile organic. Some types of water filters can reduce the lead in your drinking water.

  39. October 28, 2008

    Replaced all my old windows!! Used plastic that I laid down on the floors, wrapped all the components, wet washed and HEPA vacuumed. Make sure all my old paint is tight and intact on a yearly basis, plant sunflowers around the drip line of my house, my garden is in a raised bed (away from the house) with fresh soil.
    Since plastic bottles are found to leach chemicals from the plastic this is a horrible solution to lead in water! We live in an area that has hard water and replaced service lines, we make sure to only use cold water from the tap for cooking and drinking purposes, all the water goes through a filter.

  40. Jeff V.S. permalink
    October 28, 2008

    While the first step is creating a rule, I am concerned that little will become of this because of a lack of education or enforcement. The rule requiring notification of the homeowners by contractors has been in effect for a while, yet not one contractor knew about the requirement. Even good laws don’t take hold until there is enforcement, like click it or ticket.

  41. Jeff V.S. permalink
    October 28, 2008

    And that attitude is why lead still remains off the radar for many people.
    But that’s OK Tom, you probably smoke anyways.

  42. Kathy Lauckner permalink
    October 28, 2008

    I want to commend the Southern Nevada Health District staff and students from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas School of Public Health for campaigning many hours during our recent Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Southern Nevada Health Officials have begun to recognize our Lead Issues and have promoted the screening of children. We have a long way to go and our Northern Nevada partners are beginning to join the fight against Lead exposure. EPA, please continue to fund the program to protect our citizens from Lead Poisonings and concentrate on Lead ladened items in our present day consumer markets. Thank You.

  43. Charles Rachlis permalink
    October 28, 2008

    I blasted all the members of California’s Latino, Black and Women’s legislative caucuses as well as all the major newspapers in the state, and every mayor of the major cities as well as the supervisors I could find and all the NGO’s, Training Providers and abatement unions, that have been involved in lead issues with information that the Governor of the State of California used his line item veto on September 23rd to eliminate the budget item for the Lead in Construction Accreditations and Certification program run by the Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch. As far as I can tell none of the news papers followed up but pressure came back down from the Governors office to the agency level to find a way to salvage the program he had just cut. However the program is not out of the woods yet since the begining of the budget stalemate the program has lost three contracts that provide coursware development, state certification exam development, auditors to watch the training provders, and workers to process lead certifications. Today the California Lead in Construction Acrediations and Certifications program is in shambles unable to carry out its legally mandated tasks of monitoring the training of Lead Abatement workers, supervisors, project monitors and Inspector/Assessors. Can it be salvaged? I don’t know. But if it can it will take years, new staff and control of the EPA grants and certification fee’s to reach its former level of efficiancy.

  44. Todd Ziegler permalink
    October 28, 2008

    I am an outreach worker for the Lead Safe Babies program in Philadelphia. We provide free, educational home visits to mothers with newborn babies and infants in low-income, high-risk neighborhoods in Philadelphia.

    Lead Safe Babies is a primary-prevention program with the goal of preventing lead poisoning in children before it ever happens. We educate mothers on simple methods of reducing the risk of lead poisoning. We also test houses for lead to determine if there are dangerous levels of lead inside the home. Clients with high lead levels are referred to the City’s Lead Department for follow-up services including lead remediation.

    Lead Safe Babies has proven to reduce the risk of children in Philadelphia from becoming lead poisoned. Sadly we are only funded to provide about 2,000 home visits per year, while there are over 20,000 babies born in Philadelphia per year, and over 3,000 children tested positive for elevated blood lead levels in 2006.

  45. Mark Pokras permalink
    October 29, 2008

    There are MANY sources of Pb out there besides paint and gasoline. As a wildlife veterinarian I have worked with a variety of agencies, NGO’s and other groups to try to educate hunters & anglers and their families about Pb exposure from making and using Pb shot, bullets, sinkers and other gear. Significant exposure can take place, especially in children.
    We also discuss other recreational uses of Pb, such as stained glass (often done by women in their homes)

    Pb also poses a threat to a great many non-human species. Nontoxic alternatives exist for nearly all purposes, but there is significant opposition to change both from industry and user groups. We must work together and try to all these disparate groups working together to eliminate Pb use wherever we can.

  46. Bill Radosevich permalink
    October 29, 2008

    I have an XRF (same model as the CPSC and Consumer’s Union use) and test _everything_ in my house. I routinely test the jewelry and toys of my daughters, their friends, their siblings or baby-sittees, and complete strangers in airports.

    As the ‘Risk Assessor of last resort’, I’ve spent the past 5 years travelling around the country helping to identify the source of lead in the very tiny percentage of lead poisoning cases where residential lead-based paint hazards are not the primary source.

    NOTE: Residential lead-based paint hazards are almost always the primary source of lead in children!

    Licensed Risk Assessors with persistent EBL cases can contact me through the Alliance for Healthy Homes’ LeadNet for assistance in identifying potential sources. Because this assistance is provided pro-bono, I am not able to provide assistance to individual parents of lead poisoned children.

    Bill Radosevich,
    Scientist, Lead Risk Assessor
    J.Miller & Associates

  47. Perry Cabot permalink
    October 29, 2008

    Over the last 3 years, as an employee of the Community Energy Project in Portland, OR., I’ve taught over 200 Lead Poisoning Prevention workshops to famlies and individuals, public and private, in Spanish and English. We teach the fundamentals like what is lead, where is lead, how to test the body and the home and how to prevent lead exposures by regular cleaning of target areas in the home. We discuss remodeling risks and provide free cleaning kits, dust testing resources and access to sealed HEPA vacuums for no charge. The rewards that come from helping families avoid lead exposures are great, as are the rewards in assisting familes post-exposure to take control of their fear and confusion and move forward in constructive fashion.

  48. Phillip B permalink
    October 29, 2008

    Too True! There has to be enforcement to assure that
    the bad performers provide basic safe practices (an there are many!)
    will really do the enforcement? EPA can’t be everywhere!
    State and local jurisdictions must do this to provide needed
    assurances , but I have not heard one peep from health
    or environmental agencies concerning this.

  49. Sarah H permalink
    October 30, 2008

    I live in a home built in 1949 that has some area of chipping/peeling paint, presumably lead based. I recently found out that I am expecting my first child and am seriously concerned about the effect that lead dust is having on me now and will have on our child. I understand the risks and know steps to take to reduce those risks. My question is how can I afford to have my entire house renovated to remove those risks? The answer is I can’t. Are there less expensive steps I can take to help ensure my health and that of my baby? A program like the one above would be terrific, but I live in a small town in Mississippi where resources for such things are limited, if available at all. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

  50. painting contractors permalink
    January 19, 2009

    Don’t go wrong in choosing painting contractors in Burlington to work on your house. Residential interior painting is a great investment for it adds value to your home. On the other hand, if you’re aspiring to boost your business establishment, commercial interior painting will do a lot of wonders. Keep in mind that using a paint of good quality makes the painted surface easier to clean and wash without running the risk of paint chipping.

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