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.
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.