lead

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.

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Educational Resources & Activities

By Carly Carroll

Going into classrooms and sharing environmental has always been my favorite part of being an environmental educator. One of my favorite experiences was participating in EPA’s Science Day at an elementary school in North Carolina. The teachers and students were always so happy to open their doors and let EPA scientists and community volunteers come in and share a hands-on activity with them. My favorite activities were those that really got the students involved and doing something – like measuring how much electricity various appliances used, or measuring lung capacity and learning about air quality. Seeing these activities lead to teachers asking if EPA had any resources they could use in to bring more environmental science into their classrooms. The answer is yes!

In addition to what EPA has already developed in the past, The Office of Environmental Education is working with various program offices to develop resources highlighting upcoming important issues and monthly themes.

  • October is Children’s Health Month! Check out our series of resources and activities on protecting children’s health at home and at school!
  • Students can learn how to protect their own health with activities on lead, mold, and indoor air quality.
  • All of EPA’s student and teacher resources are in one easy place! Check out the recently updated Students and Teachers page for games, factsheets, teacher resources, activities, and more!

About the author: Carly Carroll is an Environmental Education Specialist with EPA’s Office of Environmental Education in Washington, DC. Prior to joining the office in 2011, she worked as a Student Services Contractor at EPA in Research Triangle Park, assisting with environmental education and outreach.

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.

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Renewing the American Dream: Healthy Environment for Healthy Communities and Healthy Families

This is cross-posted from The White House Blog

By Al Armendariz

Growing up in the tightly knit community of El Paso, Texas, I was always sure of a few things.

One was that family was of the utmost importance. It’s the kind of place where several generations might live within a few blocks of each other, and someone is always ready to help, scold, or praise you.

The other sure-thing involved the skyline: No matter where I was in El Paso, I could always look up and see the smokestacks of the old Asarco smelter looming. The facility affected the city in more ways than that constant visual presence. It gave many residents, including me, a lasting lesson on how pollution and industrial contamination can affect a community.

For years, El Paso families had suspected chemicals from the copper smelting facility had been contaminating nearby homes. Several studies have confirmed this is the case—toxic contamination from arsenic, lead, cadmium, and other chemicals has been found within a radius well outside the boundaries of the facility. And families who live in this area have suffered because of it. For example, a study by the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry found children living near the facility were much more likely to have elevated levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to neurological, behavioral, and developmental problems.

Although the smelter closed down in 1999 (after more than 100 years of operation), its legacy of contamination still affects this community.
Since the company declared bankruptcy in 2009, EPA has been working with the state of Texas and local community leaders to determine how best to clean up the toxic pollution so it doesn’t harm more generations of El Paso families. It’s especially meaningful to me to be at EPA while my hometown is in the midst of doing something so significant to improve public health. El Paso has transformed itself from a city dependent on polluting heavy industry to one with a diverse economic foundation in health care, defense, international trade, and education. So the smelter clean-up is not just a big issue for the city of El Paso, it means a lot to EPA as well.

Since becoming the regional administrator for the South Central region of the US, I’ve been a part of many efforts to restore communities that have been affected by toxins and industrial pollution. It’s been one of the most gratifying parts of my career to see communities transforming themselves, including places that are cleaning up from the legacy of toxic industrial pollution, and cities rebuilding themselves after natural disasters.

Seeing first-hand how pollution can harm the soil, water, and air in a family’s backyard is one of my first “environmental memories.” It’s probably one of the things that led me to study chemistry and engineering, and to become dedicated to protecting the environment. So by leading our region’s work with the state and El Paso’s leaders, I get to help resolve an environmental issue that was present in the lives of my families and friends.

Of course, it’s not just in El Paso that EPA is helping keep families safe and healthy. Along the entire border, we’re bringing colonia communities clean, reliable drinking water for the first time, and working with the government of Mexico to reduce air pollution from trucks hauling cargo into the US. I’m proud to be part of an Agency with such a long track record of protecting the health and environment of people along the border.

About the author: Al Armendariz is the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regional Administrator for Region 6(Dallas: serving Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Texas)

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.

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Science Wednesday: EPA Scientist Honored for Lifetime of Water Research

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Sarah Blau

It starts off sounding like a bad riddle: you cannot see it, smell it or taste it, and boiling it in water will not get rid of it. But then the riddle turns serious: it can cause high blood pressure, kidney problems, even cancer in adults, and can delay childhood physical or mental development. The answer to this grim riddle: lead.

I had heard about threats posed by lead from paint chips and dust in older houses, but not until recently was I aware lead is a common contaminant of drinking water. Although the main sources of exposure to lead are ingesting paint chips and inhaling dust, EPA estimates that 10 to 20 percent of human exposure to lead may come from lead in drinking water. As other sources of lead exposure are reduced, the percentage from drinking water is expected to rise.

Luckily, EPA scientists became aware of this health threat long before I did. In fact, EPA scientist Michael Schock recently received the American Water Works Association’s (AWWA) most prestigious research award, the A.P. Black Award, for his years of research contributing to the understanding, treatment, and prevention of lead in our nation’s drinking water.

Schock began his scientific studies in the field of geology with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in the subject. In 1978 he learned EPA was looking for a technician to work on lead problems in New England. Schock applied and got the job. In an AWWA interview he reflects on the team of scientists and staff involved in the drinking water research when he started out, “their enthusiasm and dedication to researching and solving health-related water quality problems was highly contagious.” Schock has now been with EPA for over 26 years.

The prevalence of lead in drinking water has to do with corrosion in the lead-containing materials that make up many water distribution systems. Researching problems with lead in drinking water allowed Schock to use his knowledge of geology in an unusual way. He told AWWA, “corrosion is really geochemistry with just different oxidants and a shorter timeframe.”

During his time with EPA, Schock researched and contributed to multiple publications on properties of lead corrosion as well as how to holistically treat and control water distribution systems suffering from the corrosion of lead, copper and other materials.

When asked about the importance of his research, Schock told AWWA, “I think the biggest reward is knowing we have provided insight that enables a health problem to be solved and future problems to be anticipated and prevented.” Now that’s a much better answer to the lead riddle.

About the author:  Sarah Blau is a student services contractor working with EPA’s Science Communication Team.

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.

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Dangers of Being a Couch Potato

By Sarah Bae

Back in High School, after a long day of grueling study, I would come home to flop on the couch in front of my computer and spend hours doing nothing. Sometimes my whole family would spend large parts of our vacations and weekends relaxing in front of the TV. Besides the calories accumulated from constant snacking during these times, we never thought there were possible health risks associated with our practice. But, there is one danger that enjoying the comfort of your couch can cause – the danger of indoor air pollution. Indoor air pollution can be especially detrimental to older adults because studies show that they spend up to 90% of their time indoors. Indoor air is made up of a mix of contaminants such as secondhand smoke, fumes from household cleaning products, and more. Indoor contaminants can be dangerously toxic, especially to those already at risk of heart disease and stroke.

Wood burning stoves and fireplaces can create smoke that contains fine carbon particles which can trigger chest pain, palpitations, fatigue, and more while household products like the vapors from cleaning products, paint solvents, and pesticides can stress the lungs and heart. If your home was built before 1978, you should also make sure that there are no more traces of lead-based paint, as traces of lead can cause serious health hazards like high blood pressure. Furthermore, victims of pesticide poisonings show symptoms such as arrhythmia, a very slow pulse, or in severe cases even heart attacks. To decrease your chances of exposure to these risks, tell smokers to take it outdoors, and limit the use of wood burning stoves and fireplaces. Also use caution when working around the house by improving your ventilation when indoor painting is taking place – open the windows and take frequent fresh air breaks. Leave the house for a few days after the painting has been completed as well. Also, be careful when using pesticides and always take protective measures such as wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants. Change clothes and wash hands after exposure to pesticides and wash the exposed clothes separately.

About the author: Sarah Bae is a summer intern for the EPA’s Office of Public Engagement. She is a rising senior at UC Berkeley majoring in Society and Environment.

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.

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Lead Exposure No Laughing Matter

By Kasia Broussalian

For good reasons, “lead” has been quite a buzzword throughout the past decade. Its adverse health effects include detrimental interferences with the nervous system, the heart, kidneys, bones and intestines. Lead poisoning is particularly harmful to children, who can suffer from developmental disorders, learning and behavioral disorders. Exposure concerns in the past few years run from light-hearted jokes to mildly concerning to alarming.

I laughed at my mother, who reminded me not to eat the paint after moving into my apartment. After the city warned of elevated lead levels found in tap water in some of the older homes of residents last year, I immediately blamed every headache I had ever had on lead intoxication. In 2000, the 18,000 New Jersey children under the age of six that were thought to carry extremely high levels of lead in their blood was, and still continues to this day, frightening.

Luckily, in April of last year, EPA introduced revisions and a strengthening of stringent rules to the RRP Law, or Renovation, Repair, and Paint Law. The law requires contractors performing renovation, repair, and painting that disturb more than six square feet of paint in homes built before 1978 must be trained and certified on correct procedures to prevent lead contamination.

Just last week, I was in Long Island City for a press event with the Fortune Society and took part in a demonstration by ANDO International on the updated procedures for correct operations when dealing with lead based paint (LBP). Though I must comment that those bright purple protection suits are quite endearing on any one, the quick testing and analysis for lead, as well as the precautions shown for contractors was very efficient. To learn more about lead and its effects, check out this link.

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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Girlfriends Talking: Lead Renovations in Older Homes

By Darlene Watford

A girlfriend of mine decided to have some additional work done this spring on her home. It’s a spacious, old home build in the 1950s with lots of charm and plenty of things that need to be updated and repaired. Last year, they updated the kitchen. This year, they plan to expand her twins’ bedrooms by combining them into one large room. She had heard something about the dangers of lead poisoning in older homes and the risks of renovating pre-1978 homes with lead paint. She asked, “What should I do to make sure the children are not harmed when the renovations are done?”

  • Should I search on the internet to learn more about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule, or
  • Should I look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified?

My answer to her was, “Do both.”

I told her that learning about lead-safe renovations is one of the many actions she can take to prevent exposing her children to harmful lead dust when the renovations are done in her home.

It is important to hire only contractors who have been trained and work for a lead-safe certified firm. Since April 2010, EPA requires contractors working on homes built before 1978 to be trained and firms to be lead-safe certified. Because other work was done on her home last year, I suggested that she follow EPA’s advice on lead-based paint to protect her family:

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection since it was built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your pediatrician to test young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about steps you can take to prevent childhood lead poisoning.

Are you planning renovations on your older home? If so, just like my girlfriend, be sure to demand that your contractor be lead-safe certified.

About the author: Darlene Watford has worked to protect kids from lead paint poisoning for over 18 years in EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in the National Program Chemicals Division.

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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Amigas hablando sobre reparaciones en casas antiguas

Una amiga decidió remodelar su hogar esta primavera. Es una casa espaciosa construida en los años 50 con mucho encanto y muchas cosas por reparar. El año pasado, remodelaron la cocina. Este año, planean expandir las habitaciones de los gemelos para combinarlas en una sola habitación bien grande. Ella había escuchado acerca de los peligros del envenenamiento por el plomo en casas antiguas y los riesgos de renovar casas construidas antes de 1978 que podrían tener pintura a base de plomo. Ella preguntó “¿Qué tengo que hacer para asegurarme que los niños no sean lesionados durante las renovaciones?”

  • ¿Debo buscar en el internet para aprender más acerca de la regulación de EPA sobre las renovaciones, reparaciones y actividades de pintura a base de plomo? O,
  • ¿Debo buscar un contratista, pero debo asegurarme que esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo?

Mi respuesta, fue afirmativa en ambos casos.

Le dije que el aprender acerca de las renovaciones seguras para el manejo seguro del plomo es una de las muchas acciones que debe tomar para evitar la exposición de sus niños al dañino polvo de plomo cuando se realicen renovaciones en su hogar.

Es importante contratar solamente a aquellos contratistas que estén entrenados y trabajen para una firma certificada para el manejo seguro de plomo. Desde abril de 2010, EPA requiere que aquellos contratistas que trabajen en hogares construidos antes de 1978 estén debidamente entrenados y trabajen para firmas certificadas para el manejo seguro de plomo. Debido a todo el trabajo realizado en su casa el año pasado, le sugerí que ella siguiera los consejos de EPA sobre la pintura a base de plomo para proteger a su familia.

  1. Realice la prueba en su hogar. Pida una inspección de plomo ya que su casa fue construida antes de 1978.
  2. Realice la prueba en su niño. Pida a su pediatra realizar la prueba de plomo en sus niños pequeños aún si están saludables.
  3. Obtenga los datos. Lea más información acerca de los pasos que debe tomar para prevenir el envenenamiento del plomo en los niños.

¿Está planeando realizar renovaciones en su casa antigua? De ser así, como le dije a mi amiga, asegúrese de exigir que su contratista esté certificado para el manejo seguro del plomo.

Acerca de la autora: Darlene Watford ha trabajado para proteger a los niños del envenenamiento por plomo en la pintura por más de 18 años en la División del Programa Nacional de Sustancias Químicas la Oficina de Prevención de Contaminación y Tóxicos de EPA.

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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Science Wednesday: Verifying Test Kits That Help Get The Lead Out

Each week we write about the science behind environmental protection. Previous Science Wednesdays.

By Julius Enriquez

How old is your house? If it’s older than 32, it probably contains some lead-based paint. This is a concern here in Cincinnati, where I live, since most of the houses here predate 1978.

EPA estimates there are 37.8 million housing units and child-occupied facilities built before 1978 still in use.
The ingestion of household dust containing lead from deteriorating paints is a common cause of lead poisoning in children. Lead may cause a range of health effects, such as behavioral problems and learning disabilities. High levels of exposure can even result in brain damage or death.

Simple and reliable tests and screening kits are needed.

EPA’s Environmental Technology Verification (ETV) Program, in collaboration with the Agency’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics (OPPT), recently completed testing four portable test kits designed for use by paint contractors. The ETV program verifies the performance of innovative technologies that have the potential to improve protection of human health and the environment.
Four new technologies, each designed to provide paint contractors with portable test kits, were tested using an ETV approved test/quality assurance protocol.

Researchers evaluated the test kits on wood, metal, drywall and plaster surfaces coated with known lead paint concentrations. Kits were also evaluated for cost, speed of results, and ease of use.

What was learned? Based on the ETV testing, OPPT recognized one of the four kits, and added it to a list of two others currently recognized by EPA. Contractors know that they can rely on kits on the lists for safe practices under the Agency’s Lead, Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule, put in place in April to protect kids and adults from lead exposure resulting from home renovation projects.

This week is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. I’m happy to be contributing to projects that help me and my 3.7 million closest neighbors keep our kids lead free.

About the author: Julius Enriquez has been working for the EPA since 1999 and works with the Environmental Technology Verification Program (www.epa.gov/etv) of the National Risk Management Research Laboratory in Cincinnati, Ohio. Julius served as the work assignment manger for the ETV testing of the lead test kits.

Note: For more information regarding the recognized kits, please go to www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/testkit.htm.

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.

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"Preventing Lead Poisoning"

Picture this: You live in a gorgeous older row home in Washington D. C. Although it’s a “fixer upper”, you bought it for its unmatched Victorian charm and its unbeatable location (Who doesn’t want to live next to a cupcake shop?). You finally decide it’s time to remodel the kid’s room and update the kitchen, but your spidey-sense is going off because you know that renovating a pre-1978 homes with lead paint can have risks. What’s the next step?

  • Do a search on the internet about EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting rule
  • Look for a contractor, but make sure to ask them if they are EPA Lead-Safe Certified
  • Check with your pediatrician about testing your children for lead

The answer is: All of the above — And don’t forget to share what you learn on your neighborhood list serve!

Learning about Lead-Safe renovations is one of the many actions you can take to prevent lead poisoning during Lead Poisoning Prevention Week this October 24-30, 2010.

This year for Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, consider taking concrete steps to make a difference (or tell a neighbor):

  1. Get Your Home Tested. Ask for a lead inspection if you live in home built before 1978.
  2. Get Your Child Tested. Ask your doctor to test your young children for lead even if they seem healthy.
  3. Get the Facts. Read more information about preventing childhood lead poisoning

Tell us, what are you doing to spread the word or learn more about Lead Poisoning Prevention.

About the author: Christina Wadlington joined EPA’s Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics in July 2008 and works in the National Program Chemicals Division.

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.