lead paint

EPA Leads During International Lead Poisoning and Prevention Week of Action

By Jane Nishida

Lead exposure remains an issue of concern for children in the United States and across the globe. With the elimination of lead in gasoline, lead in paint is now a principal pathway of exposure for children. While the U.S. has long-established laws limiting paint to less than 90 parts per million, in developing countries, paint can be found to contain more than 100,000 parts per million. The health, social, environmental, and economic impacts are well-documented, and we are leading both domestic and international efforts to protect people from lead exposure.

From October 25-31, during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, we led and participated in a range of awareness-raising events about the importance of preventing lead poisoning and what we can all do to protect our children from lead. With our counterparts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), we have been supporting community and national-level efforts in the U.S. to help solve this issue.

Internationally, we serve as the chair of the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead in Paint (known as the Lead Paint Alliance), a voluntary, multi-sector partnership working to eliminate lead from household and decorative paint by 2020. In close collaboration with leaders at the United Nations Environment Programme and the World Health Organization, we have led progress toward this goal.

Working with industry partners and dedicated NGOs, we led the development and launch of a regulatory toolkit that will help countries without laws limiting lead in paint to determine and develop their own regulatory regime. To promote the regulatory toolkit, we have been conducting direct outreach to government, industry, and NGO leaders. At the recent International Conference on Chemicals Management, we launched the toolkit and shared pertinent information with world leaders in international chemicals management through events and exhibits. Next, we will plan and participate in an African regional workshop on regulatory development scheduled for December 2-4 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Embassy Canada Event

Patty Beneck of UNEP-RONA delivers remarks during the Lead Paint Embassy Briefing at Embassy Canada. Representatives from 22 countries took part in the event.

During the 2015 International Lead Poisoning Prevention Week of Action, more than 35 countries organized nearly 100 events around the world. In Washington, D.C., we took a lead role in two major international lead-related events. We signed a statement of intent with the Pan-American Health Organization and the CDC to work together on lead paint initiatives in Latin America and the Caribbean. We also organized an embassy briefing at Embassy Canada, attended by ambassadors to the U.S. and environment and science staff from 22 embassies representing all corners of the world.

We remain committed to preventing lead exposure at home and abroad. Communities around the world must become involved in solving this issue. What are some steps we can take? Parents should get their children tested.  Teachers need to help educate families. The health community needs to raise awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning. And government leaders around the world can work to establish laws eliminating lead in paint.  Working together, we can raise a world of lead free kids.

Lead-Free Kids gaelp_logo_red

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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A Halloween Nightmare

By Vickie Pane

Lead Pain PosterHalloween is right around the corner and many people will celebrate by visiting haunted houses or trails, telling scary stories, watching horror films and such. What a lot of people don’t realize is that they may be unwittingly living in a horror story of their own…

There are many abandoned houses throughout New York and New Jersey. You pass by them every day. Do you ever take notice of one and wonder about its story? I know I do. When I was a child I romanticized stories about the former occupants of those boarded up homes and wondered what had gone so wrong. I wondered if spirits walked the halls. What was behind those boarded up windows?  Would it be too dangerous to explore? Today, I know that they are very dangerous places – but not just for the obvious structural integrity concerns. There are evil demons dwelling inside. Quietly waiting for the innocent to enter…

Do you live with your family in an older home, one filled with the charm of days gone by? Some of those beauties have high ceilings, pocket doors, intricate molding, fireplace mantels, built-in shelving, elaborate front porches and more. True architectural masterpieces! But those surfaces also have a sinister secret, and you and your family could be in grave danger…

Although old homes may (or may not be) haunted by ghosts, they are haunted by a toxic presence oozing creepily from their walls. An invisible menace: lead. Most frightening is that this demon silently poisons its trespassers. Its victims are naively unaware of what’s happening to them, and the children (like in any truly horrific story) are attacked most vehemently. Lead slaughters their future. While they innocently crawl upon the floors and creep along the walls, steady themselves in doorways and on window sills, our most vulnerable unknowingly ingest the very smallest amounts of lead on minuscule dust particles. Their little bodies and brains are invaded by a devastating ghoul that will continue to wreak havoc in their bodies for many years, even decades. AND THE DAMAGE LEAD HAS WROUGHT CAN GO UNNOTICED. A true life horror story if there ever was one!

October is Children’s Health Month and during this final week in October, we also observe Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Lead poisoning is an insidious foe, a true demon of monstrous proportions and worthy of Halloween nightmares. Lead poisoning affects every organ in the human body, and it does so silently, unassumingly, stealthily. The culprit could be lurking in your own home, on your very own walls. If your home was built before 1978, somewhere beneath the surface of all those many layers of paint, there are very likely layers of paint that contain lead. Lead does not disappear. If you renovate your home and this paint is disturbed, lead will be released into your home. It will silently fall to rest on every surface of your home. It will get into your ventilation system. There is no safe place to hide. Lead dust will find you. There are other ways lead can creep into your safe home: lead in soil, lead in water pipes, glazed bath tubs, stained glass, ceramics, and more. But lead in dust caused by renovations where lead-safe work practices are not followed is the most prevalent route.

Please take a few moments to visit www.epa.gov/lead to find out how to protect yourself from lead poisoning. Encourage your children to wash their hands before eating – especially after handling those packaged Halloween treats from unassuming older homes.

Have a lead-safe Halloween!

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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Join the Fight against Childhood Lead Poisoning

By Jim Jones

Why is it so hard to prevent childhood lead poisoning? Lead paint was banned over 30 years ago, but lead poisoning continues to plague communities across the country. One thing that makes this problem so hard to solve is that millions of homes built before the lead paint ban in 1978 still contain lead paint. In fact, lead from paint, particularly lead-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of lead poisoning.

Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes, which not only can change a person, but can significantly impact a community. Every individual exposed to lead could mean one less child going to college or one more violent crime next door.

Here at EPA we work hard every day to spread awareness about the dangers of lead, provide advice on preventing lead poisoning and enforce our Renovation Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule, which requires the use of lead-safe work practices during renovations in older homes. But we can’t do it alone.

The solution lies in everyone playing a role. We need state and local governments to ensure that communities with the greatest risk for lead poisoning become a priority for action. We also need help from community organizations and concerned citizens. Organizations need to help families find lead-safe housing. Teachers need to help educate our families. Individuals need to be aware in order to protect themselves and their families.

Wondering what you can do to prevent lead from ever affecting your kids, your grandchildren, or your best friend?

  • Get your home tested. If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. Find a certified inspector or risk assessor to get your home checked for lead hazards.
  • Get your child tested. Find out if your child has elevated levels of lead in his or her blood. You can test your child for lead poisoning by asking your pediatrician to do a simple blood test.
  • Help spread the word about Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, happening now! Join our Twitter Townhall on October 28, 2015 at 2 pm EST by following @EPAlive and using the hashtag #LeadChat2015. We’ll be answering questions and providing tips on how to protect your family from lead poisoning.

The good news in this story is lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Everyone is responsible for preventing lead poisoning; we need all hands on deck!

Learn more about lead and get tips to protect your family.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Twitter Town Hall on Lead Awareness

By Matthew Garamella

Yesterday morning was a typical morning — I woke up and rolled myself out of bed to get ready for the day. However, this time I noticed a small patch of paint chipping from the ceiling of my room. Normally I would think nothing of this minor inconvenience, but that chipping paint reminded me of the lead hazards I learned from my summer internship at EPA. I knew my room was painted well after 1978 (when lead in paint was banned nationwide), but that didn’t stop me from thinking: what if this is lead paint, and what are the long term impacts if I just ignore it?

Millions of people around the world are threatened by lead exposure, but many do not know how serious it is or how to recognize and take steps to prevent lead hazards especially for kids. Lead exposure is toxic to all people but has a defining effect on children under the age of 6. It can cause learning disabilities and lower IQ. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that there is no safe blood lead level for children.

If you own a home built before 1978, there is a likelihood that it contains lead-based paint. The safest way to determine if lead is present in your home is to hire someone who is trained and certified by EPA or has an equivalent state certification. I have taken the necessary precautions to protect my home but I worry that there are many people who have not been properly educated on the health concerns that lead poisoning causes.

If you are interested in learning about preventing lead hazards and what you can do to help raise awareness, join us at 2 pm EST, October 28 for a twitter chat. EPA’s experts will be joined by CDC and HUD to answer your questions. Join the conversation: follow the #LeadChat2015 hashtag @EPAlive, @CDCEnvironment, and @HUDgov during the chat. We look forward to talking with you.

Learn more about Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

About the author: Matthew Garamella was a summer 2015 intern at the EPA in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics, Program Assessment and Outreach Branch. Matthew is currently in his junior year at Boston University studying Environmental Analysis & Policy and International Relations.

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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Renovate Right: Lead-Based Paint Is Still a Problem

By Crystal McIntyre

“Is lead paint still around?” “I thought they got rid of all the lead.” I’ve heard these surprising responses more than once during my interactions with EPA’s regulated community through the years. Sadly, those misconceptions are very far from the truth.

More than 30 million homes in the U.S. still contain lead-based paint. They were built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned for residential use. So it’s still a big problem and will continue to be until this paint is removed from every home, day care center, school, and any other structure where adults and children spend long periods of time.

This may seem like a nearly impossible task because lead paint removal requires much money and expertise. However, not all hope is lost. In addition to the many projects designed to remove lead paint from homes, with funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, EPA has implemented regulations that require anyone getting paid to work on any privately-owned, pre-1978 properties must be properly trained and certified to do the work.

EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule became fully effective in April 2010. Over the past five years, it’s been a challenge to help the regulated community and some in the general public understand why this rule is so important. The RRP rule requires the use of lead-safe work practices, such as laying down plastic, posting warning signs, and cleaning properly after the demolition phase of the work is complete.

Sounds simple enough, right? Well, I’ve seen many instances where the lead dust created from renovation work is spread across a room, floor, or an entire house. This could have been minimized or prevented by using the appropriate type of plastic and/or closing off the work area so the dust was contained.

Since the RRP rule was implemented in 2010, we’ve had a chance to see many companies and individuals renovating the interiors and exteriors of houses, schools, apartment buildings, and hotels, among other residential areas. Unfortunately, the work is almost always done incorrectly. Shown below are examples of what we’ve seen at many work sites, versus what we should be seeing.

Below are some photos taken at EPA lead inspections, showing how those sites can appear after lead-based paint is scraped or disturbed in some way and lead-safe work practices are not used.

2015-8-7 RRP1
When I look at these photos, I’m horrified to know that families with young children possibly lived there, and were not notified of the possible hazards nor kept out of the work area where workers likely tracked the lead-based paint dust and debris throughout the house and yard.

In order to raise the blood-lead level of a small child, it only takes the equivalent of a grain of sugar to enter their bloodstream. This can happen through inhalation – not just by ingestion, which is a common misconception. The paint chips and dust seen here are much larger than a sugar grain, so imagine the danger here.

As I mentioned, the proper use of appropriate work practices can minimize the exposure to lead-based paint. Below are more photos from EPA inspections, showing sites where attempts were made to safely conduct the work. The RRP rule requires renovators to take a course that walks them through the steps to contain a work area, post warning signs, and clean properly. You can see that the residents’ furniture was covered, HEPA vacuums were used for cleaning, and work areas were separated.

2015-8-7 RRP2
By following the RRP rule and using lead-safe work practices, we can help ensure that the health of our families is protected in the Heartland and across the nation. Please check out the links below to learn more.

Helpful EPA Links:

About the Author: Crystal McIntyre is an Environmental Protection Specialist who has worked for EPA for 17 years. She’s currently the Regional Lead Coordinator for the Lead-Based Paint Program. Crystal studied broadcast journalism at Lincoln University in Jefferson City, Mo.

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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Working Across the Globe to Tackle Risks from Lead in Paint

It’s striking to me that children in developing countries still face serious health threats because lead continues to be legally used in paints in places where children live and play. Paints with concentrations as high as 10,000 ppm can be sold and used in homes and schools because there are no legal limits on lead. In addition, children may also be exposed to risks from lead in the air, soil and water in these countries. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

That’s why last month in New Delhi, India, we stood with our partners in the Global Alliance to End Lead Paint to work toward establishing legal limits on lead in decorative paint in other countries. We presented elements of U.S. legislation and coordinated technical expertise from the U.S. and countries around the world.

group picture of conference attendees

At home in the U.S., we already have in place federal and state regulatory standards that have helped minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in gas, air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and the workplace. Our health and environment has significantly improved with these restrictions and blood lead levels have declined. The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years dropped from 15 µg/dL in 1976-1980 to 1.2 µg/dL in 2009-2010.

However, our work is not done. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2009-2012 show an estimated 535,000 children (or 2.1 percent of children) in the U.S. have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter, levels known to put children’s academic and later life success at risk. Also, CDC’s blood lead surveillance data, collected from state and local health departments, continues to identify a disproportionate share of children with elevated blood comes from low income and minority communities. Finally, it is estimated that 37 million homes still contain lead-based paint.

Because there is no known safe blood lead level for children, EPA and other federal partners continue to work together to control or eliminate lead hazards before children are exposed. While we have made significant progress to reduce children’s exposure to lead, there is still more work to do.

Find out more about reducing risk from lead.

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Protecting Children’s Health from Lead Poisoning in Paints in the US and Around the World

Pictures of brightly painted playgrounds, schools, and day care centers make for cheerful spaces for smiling, laughing children. However, in many developing countries these colorful paints can actually pose a serious health threat because lead can still legally be used in paints in places where children live and play. Children are uniquely vulnerable to environmental hazards and are particularly susceptible to lead poisoning from lead in paint.

Lead poses serious, lifelong health risks to children. As lead paints deteriorate, it enters the environment and can lead to lead poisoning. Some of the potential effects include sensory, motor, cognitive, and behavioral impacts that can result in lowered intelligence; reading and learning disabilities; impaired hearing, reduced attention span; hyperactivity; delayed puberty; reduced postnatal growth; and anemia.

The economic impact of the loss of IQ due to lead poisoning is significant as well. A recent study in the Environmental Health Perspectives Journal estimated lost economic productivity due to lead poisoning to be “a total cost of $977 billion of international dollars in low- and middle-income countries”. The health, social, and economic impacts of lead poisoning are devastating, but avoiding risk from lead in paint is something that we can easily address.

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Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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Sharing What I Learned About Lead – Help Spread the Word

By Michelle Jang

During my summer internship in EPA’s lead program, I got to see how many organizations work together to protect people, especially children, from lead poisoning. This effort includes everyone from Congress and EPA to local governments and communities. I was also able to participate in international initiatives to spread awareness to countries that still use lead-based paint. I believe these efforts can lead to a healthier and cleaner environment all over the world. Joining together can – and has – made a huge difference in reducing this major environmental health threat. However, in the end, it’s up to each of us.

I learned more about lead in these nine weeks than in my entire school career, so I still want to do my part. Here are some things that really stuck with me.

I learned that lead is harmful to children in even the smallest amount and that it can cause permanent damage in early brain and muscle development.

I also learned that homes built before the lead-based paint ban in 1978 might still have walls painted with lead-based paint. Lead also can be in the paint used for pots and toys. This new knowledge made me realize – and become a bit paranoid – that I could have been exposed as a child, or even worse, how my future children may become exposed.

I learned that federal law requires that renovators who work in homes built before 1978 must receive special training. Also, the companies they work for must become “lead-safe certified” for the safety of home owners and their families. I realized the importance of getting that message out: lead is dangerous if you live in a pre-1978 home, you need to hire workers certified by EPA in lead-safe work practices.

I’m sharing this information because I want to make this world a better place to live. I hope that you’ll pass it along, too; awareness is an important step in protecting ourselves, our families and the environment from the dangers of lead.

Learn more about EPA’s lead program and Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

About the author: Michelle Jang is a rising senior studying Civil Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She was an intern with the Lead Program in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention during the summer of 2014.

 

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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Lead Paint: Doing What’s Right

By Jessica Orquina

The first home I owned was built in the late 1800s. When I had it renovated, the contactors talked to me about what they had to do to protect me and their workers from the hazards of lead paint. I was glad to know that the people working on my home were going to be following proper procedures and building codes. Now, I live in a newer building, but I’m also a new mom. I’m concerned about protecting my son from harmful lead paint chips and dust where he plays and learns.

Reputable builders understand the public benefits from their meeting building code and environmental requirements.  They also know it benefits their business, especially when marketing knowledge, skills and reputation to potential customers.

Since I began working at EPA I’ve learned more about the Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) rule and how it is implemented. This rule is designed to protect children and other vulnerable Americans from the effects of lead paint.

There have always been suspicions about the health hazards caused by lead. It’s now known that lead is a persistent, toxic chemical that builds up in people’s bodies.  Among other problems, it interferes with the development of the nervous system.  That means it’s particularly dangerous to very young children, where it can cause learning and behavioral disorders. As a result, lead was banned from paint in the US in the mid-70s.

For these reasons, the RRP rule requires workers involved with the home renovation business to be trained and certified in work practice standards.  These standards help reduce the health risks from exposure to lead based paint. The rule applies not only to construction workers, but to painters, electricians, plumbers, and anyone else whose work may disturb painted surfaces. Note to do-it-yourselfers: the risks from lead paint dust are just as great in your own work. The rule doesn’t cover you, but you still should follow lead-safe work practices.

My colleagues at EPA work hard to increase compliance with the RRP rule. For example, we provide plain language compliance resources for construction workers and ask people to submit tips and complaints to us. We also work to bring companies, like Lowe’s Home Centers, into compliance after our inspections found their contractors were not using lead-safe work practices.

As a consumer, remember to make sure you’re hiring certified renovators who use the correct work practices. Contractors that are certified under the RRP rule are encouraged to display EPA’s “Lead-Safe” logo on their workers’ uniforms, signs, and website.  Protect yourself by looking for this logo before hiring a home contractor. Whether you’re installing new windows or finishing your basement, using the correct renovating methods will pay dividends to you and your family, and to the next person that rents or buys your house.  If you hire uncertified renovators, it not only creates potential lead paint risks for your family, but reduces the incentive for other renovators to pay the extra cost to comply with the rule. For more information, visit the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program website.

About the author: Jessica Orquina works in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education as the social media lead for the agency. Prior to joining EPA, she served as a military and commercial airline pilot. She lives, works, and writes in Washington, DC.

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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Enforcing the Law to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

Years ago, when I needed to have my house painted, I called local contractors to submit bids for the work. My daughter was four years old at the time, and so I was acutely aware about dangers of lead paint exposure. It can cause a range of health issues, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and other serious problems, putting young children at the greatest risk as their nervous systems are still developing. So I paid close attention to the bids to make sure the one I chose would be lead-safe.  In those days, finding a lead-safe contractor wasn’t easy.

But today, it’s easier. Other families shared the same concern I had, prompting the adoption of new regulations for lead safe practices in 2010. EPA is working to protect children from lead poisoning by enforcing these regulations. A case in point: Today we’ve announced a major settlement that requires Lowe’s Home Centers to enact a corporate-wide compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work in customers’ homes follow the law and protect children from lead paint exposure. Lowe’s is taking responsibility to police the contractors it hires, which we think sends an important message to renovation companies across the country: Follow the rules on lead-safe practices and make sure the contractors you hire do the same. More

Editor's Note: The views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations.

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