We Don’t Have to Live with Lead Poisoning
By Crystal McIntyre
As I sit working on this dreary, rainy morning, I think about the things that are not taking place today like soccer games and outside recess at schools. When the rain comes or the cold weather hits, many activities cease and change. It would be safe to say that outdoor activities slow down during the fall and winter months, including home improvement work; work that is done outdoors, work that is done by skilled professionals and homeowners alike.
But what about the months before, when many people complete various projects to make their homes look better? Many people aren’t aware that the positive urge to improve their homes can have unintended but potentially harmful consequences for children.
It all has to do with the fact that many homes in the country—particularly those built before 1978–STILL contain dangerous amounts of lead-based paint. When that paint is disturbed by home renovation or improvement work, it can present a major hazard to pregnant women and especially to children under the age of 6—those children whose brains are still developing, who play on floors and tend to have more frequent hand-to-mouth contact. No caring adult wants to harm children, but that’s exactly what happens when lead-based paint is disturbed and proper steps are not taken to keep children safe.
October is Children’s Health Month, with a special focus on lead poisoning prevention during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 19-25). During this week, many organizations and agencies, including EPA, are asking parents and caregivers to have their children tested, have their homes tested, and get the facts about lead poisoning.
I’m personally asking everyone to be aware that lead is STILL a problem. Lead will continue to be a problem as long as it remains in our homes, schools, yards and playgrounds. We just need to be diligent about what we can do to keep our children safe. The good news is, there’s so much good, free and easily accessible information available to us about lead poisoning, so it’s easy for anyone to start by reading just a little and asking a lot of questions. Both EPA and the Centers for Disease Control have helpful online information on lead hazards and the effects of lead poisoning. You can find it at www.epa.gov/lead and http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm
It’s never too late to prevent lead poisoning. It IS a preventable disease that currently half a million U.S. children are known to have. How many more could be exposed? The answer is unknown, but lead does not discriminate. It is a highly toxic and sometimes deadly poison that we can learn about and don’t have to live with.
Crystal McIntyre is EPA Region 7’s Lead-Based Paint Program Coordinator
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