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 views expressed here are intended to explain EPA policy. They do not change anyone's rights or obligations. You may share this post. However, please do not change the title or the content, or remove EPA’s identity as the author. If you do make substantive changes, please do not attribute the edited title or content to EPA or the author.

EPA's official web site is www.epa.gov. Some links on this page may redirect users from the EPA website to specific content on a non-EPA, third-party site. In doing so, EPA is directing you only to the specific content referenced at the time of publication, not to any other content that may appear on the same webpage or elsewhere on the third-party site, or be added at a later date.

EPA is providing this link for informational purposes only. EPA cannot attest to the accuracy of non-EPA information provided by any third-party sites or any other linked site. EPA does not endorse any non-government websites, companies, internet applications or any policies or information expressed therein.