lead poisoning

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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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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Protecting Children from Environmental Health Risks

By Khesha Reed

EPA’s responsibility to protect public health and the environment is driven in large part by our duty to protect our kids. October is Children’s Health Month, a time to make sure we’re doing all we can individually and as an agency to protect children from the environmental health risks they face.

Children are not little adults. They have different activity patterns, physiology, and susceptibility to environmental stressors than adults do. Kids eat, breathe, and drink more relative to their body mass than adults do, so it’s especially important that their air and water be clean and their food be healthy. And because they are still growing and developing, exposure to pollution—including mercury, lead, and chemicals—can be especially dangerous for kids.

This year, I’m proud that EPA has taken action to fight climate change, protect clean water, and promote safer pesticides—decreasing children’s health risks.

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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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Protecting Our Children from Lead Poisoning

By Lina Younes

The other day, my husband and I met with a potential contractor to discuss some home repair projects. During our conversation, he asked if our home was built before 1978. While I gladly stated it wasn’t, I knew exactly why he asked: EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule requires contractors to follow safe lead practices when working on homes and child care facilities built before 1978. While the United States banned the sale of lead-based paint in 1978, paint and dust with lead can still be a problem in places built before then.

Lead is a highly toxic metal that can seriously hurt people, especially kids. Elevated blood lead levels in children affect almost every organ in their bodies. In extreme cases, it can even be lethal. So, what can you do to protect your children and family?

  • Clean your home regularly, watching especially for deteriorating lead-based paint and paint chips or dust.
  • Wash your children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers and toys often.
  • Have your children wipe and remove their shoes and wash hands after playing outdoors.
  • Feed your kids a healthy diet so their bodies will absorb less lead.
  • If you think your child could be at risk, consult your doctor about whether you should test how much lead is in your child’s blood.

The number of lead poisoning cases has steadily gone down since EPA banned lead in gasoline and residential paint. We’re trying to reduce them even further, though. This year, we’re working with our federal, state, and international partners through the Global Alliance to Eliminate Lead Paint.

We need to make special efforts to protect our children’s health: they’re more vulnerable than adults because of their size and behavior. For example, they eat and drink more in proportion to their weight. That intensifies the effects of exposure to lead and other contaminants. Furthermore, their habit of putting their hands and small objects in their mouths puts them at greater risk of swallowing lead from paint or dust particles. Since lead poisoning is totally preventable, wouldn’t you like to do your part to protect your child?

 

About the author:  Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves the Multilingual Communications Liaison for EPA. She manages EPA’s social media efforts in Spanish. 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.

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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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Lead Poisoning: The Single Most Significant Environmental Health Threat to American Children

By Marcia Anderson

Lead poisons huge numbers of people of all ages and walks of life, but most vulnerable are the very young. Although lead can affect adults, those most sensitive to lead’s adverse effects — and at highest risk — are infants, fetuses and children up to six years. Lead is now recognized as the single most significant environmental health threat to American children.

Lead in dirt is a persisting problem, which is why it is increasingly important to screen your child for lead poisoning based on the risk factors indicated in this post.

Special vulnerability of children: Children are in double jeopardy from the ill effects of lead, because their highest potential for exposure occurs due to their behavioral patterns: children engage in more hand-to-mouth activity than adults, and therefore ingest more contaminants in dust or dirt. This high exposure comes at a time when children’s bodies are building their vital organs and bones and lead is particularly toxic to their developing nervous systems. In addition, children’s bodies are not as efficient at depositing circulatory lead into their bones, and thus a higher percentage of the total lead in their bodies becomes available to exert toxic effects on their internal organs.

Children are usually exposed to lead by swallowing paint chips or dirt contaminated with lead. Since lead was an ingredient of paint prior to 1977, children living in older homes with chipping paint are the most at risk for lead poisoning. Children need to be screened for lead poisoning, especially if they have any of the following risk factors: If you live or often visit a house that was built before 1978 and has been remodeled in the past 6 months, or if you live in a zip code where more than 27% of the homes were built before 1950. New York State requires health care providers to test all children with a blood lead test at age 1 and again at age 2. Up to age 6, your doctor or nurse should ask you about ways your child may have had contact with lead. Check with your local health department to see if you live in a high risk area. More

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 Poisoning: A Cumulative and Persistent Problem In our Homes (Part 1)

By Marcia Anderson

Lead poisons huge numbers of people of all ages and walks of life, and the effects of lead most often present themselves as chronic and debilitating. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable. So, despite the dramatic reduction in sources of lead exposure, lead poisoning remains a reality for a disturbingly high number of people in this country. Though lead is no longer added to gasoline, paint or plumbing fixtures, very little has been done in most states to eliminate the hazards posed by lead in existing paint and plumbing systems and lead-contaminated soil and dust. In 1995 the federal government estimated that 83 percent of the privately owned homes built before 1980 contain some lead-based paint, with 23 percent of these homes with soil lead levels in excess of 400 ppm.

Most exposure occurs at Home. When lead paint peels or is disturbed — even during minor renovations — lead-containing dust is produced. Lead dust is one of the most common ways in which people are exposed to lead. Lead dust may not be visible to the naked eye however, most lead dust forms as a result of flaking paint or when paint is scraped, sanded or disturbed during home remodeling If swallowed, even the tiniest lead particles are dangerous. Exterior paint is even higher in lead content and thus more dangerous when it becomes accessible to the interior at windowsills.

People are poisoned by inhaling and ingesting these tiny particles that flake off by opening and closing of windows and doors. These lead particles settle on windowsills, wood floors, and in carpeting and other low-lying areas. Similarly, flakes and particles from exterior paint accumulate in the soil outside a house. The finer particles can easily blow into homes and offices as dust. The concentration of lead in soil adjacent to homes with lead-based paint can be as high as 10,000 ppm.

How can I tell if my house has lead in or around It? The older the house, the greater the risk. If your house has lead paint, it is best to find a qualified lead abatement professional to get rid of it. Removing lead paint yourself can be very dangerous, according to the Consumer Products Safety Commission.

I have lead in my home and nowhere else to go. What do I do? Natural indoor air currents keep microscopic dust particles in the air. You can keep the dust out of the air with an ionizer or negative ion generator. This is a temporary fix. When an ionizer is running, the negative ions cause the dust particles floating in the air to be attracted to one another and stick together. When a bunch of them stick together and form a bigger clump of dust particles they become heavy enough to sink down to the floor and they can be vacuumed up. The main goal of an ionizer is to get the dust out of the air so that it cannot be breathed in.

Concerned about lead in your environment? Go to www.epa.gov/lead , or call 311 in New York City or call the National lead hotline: 1-800-424-LEAD (5323).

About the author: Marcia is the bed bug and vector management specialist for the Pesticides Program in Edison. She has a BS in Biology from Monmouth, second degree in Environmental Design-Landscape Architecture from Rutgers, Masters in Instruction and Curriculum from Kean, and is a PhD in Environmental Management candidate from Montclair – specializing in Integrated Pest Management and Environmental Communications. Prior to EPA, and concurrently, she has been a professor of Earth and Environmental Studies, Geology and Oceanography at Kean University for 14 years.

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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A Week for Happy, Lead-Free Kids

By Esther Kwon

Among the long list of things my parents told me to be afraid of when I was a child, lead-based paint was never one of them. Perhaps the reason why I was able to grow up without worrying about what was coating the swing set I played on and what kind of paint was on the walls in my room was because of the federal regulations and efforts made since the late 1970s to prevent children and adults from being affected by lead-based paint poisoning. However, it saddens me to know that there are still so many children who are exposed to lead-based paint hazards in and near our homes.

I came to the EPA as an intern to learn about the Agency’s regulatory rulemaking process for six months, but I did not expect to gain so much knowledge about lead hazards and safety practices. For example, I found out about the types of cognitive disorders that could occur in children from lead poisoning, and learned that even a few particles of lead in the dust are enough to poison a child. More than 1 million children are affected by lead poisoning today, and this is especially troublesome, in my opinion, because lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. Although, as an intern, the scope of power I have at the EPA is extremely limited, I am thankful that I can assist in any way that furthers the Agency’s public health protection and education goals for lead poisoning prevention, including reaching you through this blog.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, a week dedicated to educating parents and children on the dangers of lead-based paint exposure and the importance of the health and safety of our homes. To participate, you do not have to donate money or start a march for the cause. You can help by simply spreading the knowledge to your friends and family that lead in paint is still a problem in the US and that lead-based paint exposure can be prevented. Send an E-card on lead-safe work practices or print out a poster and hang it at your work place or at school. You can also find great prevention information and a neat web tool to help parents identify common danger zones for lead in older homes built before 1978. Check it out. Read about the facts and act on them.

About the author: Esther Kwon is an intern for the Lead, Heavy Metals & Inorganics Branch in the Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics. She will be returning to Smith College in December, where she will be graduating in the spring.

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.