lead poisoning prevention

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week: Keeping our Kids Healthy Starts at Home

By Jess Portmess

My new nephew is still too young to pick up toys or explore the floors and walls of the house on all fours. But if his daily growth is any indication, it’s not that far off. I didn’t imagine my clerkship with EPA could make me think of him more often than I already do. Yet, he’s the face I see as I learn more about how to protect children from lead-based paint hazards. He is, after all, among those who are the most sensitive to the dangers from lead-based paint.

As a law clerk with EPA, I hope to gain a better understanding of how EPA makes concrete strides in solving big environmental problems. With hundreds of thousands of children affected by lead poisoning, I’d say the “big” shoe fits. The inspiring and motivating reality is, however, that lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. If you live in a home built before 1978, chances are it may have lead paint. That paint can wear over time, chipping away for a curious child’s hands or turning into dust that accumulates on the floor, window troughs, and other surfaces of your home. Renovations can disturb lead paint and spread more dust. But you can prevent these risks from affecting your family by regularly cleaning your home’s surfaces, maintaining painted surfaces, having your home inspected by a lead-safe certified professional, and renovating only with lead-safe certified contractors.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a week dedicated to raising awareness about lead paint hazards, especially in the home. This week focuses on the many ways that parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead and prevent its serious health effects. To start, learn the facts about lead, or have your home tested. You could even ask your doctor to test your child for lead.

Preventing lead poisoning can be simple and the consequences of inaction are too terrible to ignore. Lead-contaminated dust can slow a child’s growth, inhibit his learning, and damage his brain or central nervous system. As a law student passionate about environmental law and natural resources, you learn a lot about uphill struggles where the stakes are high. For my nephew’s sake, I know I’ll keep climbing and I hope you do too.

For more information about National Lead Poisoning Prevention week visit

About the author: Jess Portmess is a law clerk in the National Program Chemicals Division of EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She will be graduating from American University Washington College of Law in May 2013.

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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Do-It-Yourselfers Have To Be Careful, Too!

By Lina Younes

In these times, everyone is looking for ways to save money. Whether it’s saving energy, cutting coupons or reusing certain items, we all want to limit our expenses. So, for those who are handy with tools, the do-it-yourself-way might be the most economical option for making repairs at home. While many home improvement stores provide useful kits and information to update the look around the house, one word of caution: make sure that the simple steps you take in your home will not adversely affect your health or your family’s. Let me explain.

For example, if you live in a home that was built before 1978, it is likely that at some point your house had lead-based paint. Why should you be concerned about this? Well, lead paint poisoning affects over a million children in the United States today and it can lead to learning disabilities, hearing loss, and other serious health effects. If you are going to renovate, repair or paint your home, make sure that you use lead-safe practices to contain the work area, minimize dust, and clean up thoroughly after the paint or renovation job is over. Your best bet might be to hire a lead-safe certified contractor.

On another issue, some common home problems like drafty rooms, poorly maintained air-conditioning or heating equipment can all contribute to high energy bills. Simple repairs around the home like sealing air leaks, cleaning air ducts, and properly maintaining cooling equipment and appliances will go a long way to improve your health and save money. Here you will find additional tips to improve energy efficiency and better protect the environment.

During the summer, we see an increase in creepy crawlers inside and around the home. For some, the initial reaction is to grab the closest pesticide and spray it all over regardless of the annoying pest at hand. For others, they prefer to call professional exterminators to do the job. Regardless, the best advice is to prevent pests from invading your household in the first place. If pesticides are still necessary, follow the instructions correctly and safely.

Now, for doing-yourself auto repairs, I guess I’ll leave that for another blog. Your comments are always welcomed. Talk to you next week.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations 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.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

When In Doubt, Throw It Out!

With the latest news reports of toxic metals in toy jewelry and metal trinkets, you just wonder what is safe for children nowadays. A couple of years ago, there was great concern about lead used in children’s toys produced overseas. Now, the latest scare is due to another heavy metal—cadmium.

Why is lead in toy jewelry a concern? Exposure to lead in children remains a major environmental health problem in the United States. It’s particularly dangerous in children because it can cause serious damage to their developing brains and nervous system. It can also cause other behavior and learning problems. These hazards are also magnified in the case of children because of their behavior of taking their hands and other objects to their mouths. Children can easily put these lead based charms and trinkets into their mouths, hence the concern.

Now, we find that some manufacturers stopped using lead but turned to another heavy metal to produce these toy charms—cadmium. Exposure to this toxic metal in children and adults can have adverse effects on kidneys, lungs, and bones, even cancer.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission denounced the use of these heavy metals in children’s products. Hopefully this will put an end to the use of toxic metals in new toys, but what do we do with some of the toy jewelry and metal trinkets our children received over the holidays? At first, I thought that only the cheapest toy jewelry were the ones at risk of having cadmium or lead. But later I found out that even some of the jewelry with brand names might have these toxic metals as well. We could have these items tested. Yet, with these red flags, the practice I usually follow is—when in doubt, throw it out!

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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.

Please share this post. However, please don't change the title or the content. If you do make changes, don't attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.