lead

Working Across the Globe to Tackle Risks from Lead in Paint

It’s striking to me that children in developing countries still face serious health threats because lead continues to be legally used in paints in places where children live and play. Paints with concentrations as high as 10,000 ppm can be sold and used in homes and schools because there are no legal limits on lead. In addition, children may also be exposed to risks from lead in the air, soil and water in these countries. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

That’s why last month in New Delhi, India, we stood with our partners in the Global Alliance to End Lead Paint to work toward establishing legal limits on lead in decorative paint in other countries. We presented elements of U.S. legislation and coordinated technical expertise from the U.S. and countries around the world.

group picture of conference attendees

At home in the U.S., we already have in place federal and state regulatory standards that have helped minimize or eliminate the amount of lead in gas, air, drinking water, soil, consumer products, food, and the workplace. Our health and environment has significantly improved with these restrictions and blood lead levels have declined. The median concentration of lead in the blood of children between the ages of 1 and 5 years dropped from 15 µg/dL in 1976-1980 to 1.2 µg/dL in 2009-2010.

However, our work is not done. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) from 2009-2012 show an estimated 535,000 children (or 2.1 percent of children) in the U.S. have blood lead levels greater than or equal to 5 micrograms per deciliter, levels known to put children’s academic and later life success at risk. Also, CDC’s blood lead surveillance data, collected from state and local health departments, continues to identify a disproportionate share of children with elevated blood comes from low income and minority communities. Finally, it is estimated that 37 million homes still contain lead-based paint.

Because there is no known safe blood lead level for children, EPA and other federal partners continue to work together to control or eliminate lead hazards before children are exposed. While we have made significant progress to reduce children’s exposure to lead, there is still more work to do.

Find out more about reducing risk from lead.

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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Sharing What I Learned About Lead – Help Spread the Word

By Michelle Jang

During my summer internship in EPA’s lead program, I got to see how many organizations work together to protect people, especially children, from lead poisoning. This effort includes everyone from Congress and EPA to local governments and communities. I was also able to participate in international initiatives to spread awareness to countries that still use lead-based paint. I believe these efforts can lead to a healthier and cleaner environment all over the world. Joining together can – and has – made a huge difference in reducing this major environmental health threat. However, in the end, it’s up to each of us.

I learned more about lead in these nine weeks than in my entire school career, so I still want to do my part. Here are some things that really stuck with me.

I learned that lead is harmful to children in even the smallest amount and that it can cause permanent damage in early brain and muscle development.

I also learned that homes built before the lead-based paint ban in 1978 might still have walls painted with lead-based paint. Lead also can be in the paint used for pots and toys. This new knowledge made me realize – and become a bit paranoid – that I could have been exposed as a child, or even worse, how my future children may become exposed.

I learned that federal law requires that renovators who work in homes built before 1978 must receive special training. Also, the companies they work for must become “lead-safe certified” for the safety of home owners and their families. I realized the importance of getting that message out: lead is dangerous if you live in a pre-1978 home, you need to hire workers certified by EPA in lead-safe work practices.

I’m sharing this information because I want to make this world a better place to live. I hope that you’ll pass it along, too; awareness is an important step in protecting ourselves, our families and the environment from the dangers of lead.

Learn more about EPA’s lead program and Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.

About the author: Michelle Jang is a rising senior studying Civil Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. She was an intern with the Lead Program in the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention during the summer of 2014.

 

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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Enforcing the Law to Protect Children from Lead Poisoning

Years ago, when I needed to have my house painted, I called local contractors to submit bids for the work. My daughter was four years old at the time, and so I was acutely aware about dangers of lead paint exposure. It can cause a range of health issues, including behavioral disorders, learning disabilities and other serious problems, putting young children at the greatest risk as their nervous systems are still developing. So I paid close attention to the bids to make sure the one I chose would be lead-safe.  In those days, finding a lead-safe contractor wasn’t easy.

But today, it’s easier. Other families shared the same concern I had, prompting the adoption of new regulations for lead safe practices in 2010. EPA is working to protect children from lead poisoning by enforcing these regulations. A case in point: Today we’ve announced a major settlement that requires Lowe’s Home Centers to enact a corporate-wide compliance program to ensure that the contractors it hires to perform work in customers’ homes follow the law and protect children from lead paint exposure. Lowe’s is taking responsibility to police the contractors it hires, which we think sends an important message to renovation companies across the country: Follow the rules on lead-safe practices and make sure the contractors you hire do the same. More

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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Greening Your Home for the Holidays

By Lina Younes

 As the holidays are fast approaching, now may be a good time to make some green repairs before the festivities. Personally, I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that here on the mainland many people consider spring to be the ideal season for giving the house a good cleaning or overhaul. I remember growing up in Puerto Rico, where the favored time for home makeovers was the fall. One of the main reasons for the different home improvement habits might be the changing seasons. Since in Puerto Rico we had summer virtually all year round, the motivation to fix the house usually was linked to the anticipated arrival of guests over the holidays.

So what can you do to make your home a more welcoming, healthier and greener environment for your family and friends? Here are some suggestions.

  • Clean your air filters regularly to improve the indoor air quality in your home.
  • Look for mold in your home: it’ll grow in areas where there’s water or moisture. Clean the mold on hard surfaces. Discard those items that cannot be cleaned and make necessary repairs to solve the moisture problem to prevent it from reoccurring.
  • Paint your home to brighten it up. However, if it was built before 1978, it might have some old lead-based paint which can hurt you and your family. Make sure painting and repairs are done safely to prevent lead poisoning
  • If you’re renovating your bathrooms or kitchen, consider installing toilets and water fixtures with the WaterSense label. They’re more efficient, so they’ll save water and money while protecting the environment.
  • Heat and cool your home more efficiently with Energy Star. You’ll reduce your energy bills and make your home more comfortable while reducing your carbon footprint.
  • Think of ways you can reduce waste during the holidays, like using reusable plates and silverware and storing food and leftovers in reusable containers.

Are you planning any green repairs for the holidays? Let us know.

 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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EPA’s Continuing Effort to Reduce Lead Exposure

Three images in a line: child and adult hands together, lake shore, lead from periodic table.By Ellen Kirrane

As a kid growing up in the 1970s, I can remember my mom pulling up to the filling station and asking for “regular” gasoline.  At the time, I didn’t realize what this meant, but as I got older I found out that “regular” gasoline had lead in it; the other option – “unleaded” gas – did not.

Now, as a scientist working for EPA, I have a true appreciation for what lead is and how the next generation of kids can benefit from living in an environment that is cleaner because “regular” gasoline is no longer the norm.

By removing lead from gasoline and tightening industrial emissions standards, EPA has drastically reduced lead air emissions in the U.S.; they declined by more than two orders of magnitude (100 times) between 1970 and 2008.  But even with such important progress, by 2008 scientists realized that it was not enough, and that a young child’s cognitive function could be impacted by much lower lead exposures than previously understood. Supported with such science, EPA lowered its National Ambient Air Quality Standard for lead tenfold.

In June 2013, EPA released its most recent review of the science on the health and ecological effects of lead. Scientists who study lead consider it one of the “dirtiest” chemicals because it affects so many different systems in the body.  It does this by interfering with molecules called “ions.” When lead exposure affects ion status in the cells, it disrupts how calcium is regulated and how proteins are used for essential bodily functions.  This can lead to a wide array of health and ecological effects.

In children, lead exposure can cause IQ reductions and decreased academic performance. Lead can also cause behavioral changes in children, have harmful effects on blood cells and blood producing organs, and may cause decreased auditory and motor function, as well as immune effects.  Some of these effects may be irreversible and there is no evidence of a threshold below which scientists can be confident that there are no harmful cognitive effects from lead exposure. In adults, long-term lead exposure can cause increased blood pressure and hypertension, lead to coronary heart disease and affect many other organ systems. Just as lead can harm humans, it can also harm animals and other organisms that live on land and in the water by reducing survival, growth and reproduction, as well as affecting behavior, development and blood producing organs.

In addition to setting standards for lead in air, EPA continues to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of lead through a variety of programs.  EPA’s assessment of the science on the health and ecological effects of lead underpins these efforts. I am proud to be part of an agency that’s been working for four decades to keep lead out of our air, water, and soil.

To find out more about what EPA is doing to protect the American public from lead exposure, visit the Agency’s lead website at http://www2.epa.gov/lead.

About the Author:  Ellen Kirrane is an epidemiologist in EPA’s National Center for Environmental Assessment. She works on Integrated Science Assessments, which form the scientific basis for the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

 

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action.

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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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It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week – Why Does it Still Matter?

Lead Poisoning Prevention

The use of lead in residential paints and lead in gasoline was banned in the 1970’s, so why do we keep talking about the problem of lead in paint?

The fact is that lead in paint is still in homes built before 1978. It’s still there in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. It’s still a hazard in deteriorating lead-based paint (peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, damaged or damp paint, or in paint dust) and needs immediate attention.

Also, every time I look around, we are finding out more about how subtle and damaging the effects of lead can be. Even low-level lead exposure at a young age can result in a range of irreversible and untreatable lifelong health and developmental issues, such as lowered IQ, shortened attention span, and behavioral issues. Children suffering from lead poisoning or exposure can have diminished opportunities and well-being, burdening both families and societies.

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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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For A Safe And Healthy Home

By Lina Younes

Are you handy around the house? Are you skilled at using tools and fixing things? Would you consider yourself a do-it-yourselfer? Well, certain home repairs and remodeling activities can harm your health and that of your family if not done properly.

Here are some tips to make those needed repairs while protecting your home environment:

Lead– Do you live in a home built before 1978? It may have lead-based paint. Lead is a toxic metal that adversely affects people’s nervous system and causes behavioral, learning and hearing problems. If you are going to paint your home, you should work safely. Use protective clothing and the right equipment to prevent old lead-based paint chips or lead dust from contaminating the air during the renovation process.

Mold – Do you have leaky faucets or water damage inside your home? Moisture or water accumulation may lead to a problem with mold. In turn, mold spores indoors can cause allergic reactions and other health problems. It’s important to fix any plumbing or water problems as soon as possible. Dry all items completely.

Indoor air quality – Poor ventilation is one of the main culprits of poor indoor air quality. Clean your air filters regularly to ensure good air quality and improve the energy efficiency of your air conditioning and heating system. Not only does that improve your health and the efficiency of your system, but in the long run it saves you money, too.

Pesticides – When it comes to pest control, prevention is key. However, if in spite of your best efforts towards integrated pest management, those unwanted creatures infest your home, what should you do? Use pesticides properly and start by reading the label first.

As you can see, with some simple steps, you can make sure that your home is a healthy place for you and your family. Here is some additional information to help you save energy, save money and make your home greener and healthier.

Do you have any do-it-yourself tips that you would like to share with us? We would love to hear from you.

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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Changing the Health of a Community – Beyond Land Cleanup

By Mathy Stanislaus

When I went to Omaha, NE last week, I was excited for Superfund’s big announcement: the delisting of over 1,000 residential parcels from the Omaha Lead Superfund site. This was an important milestone in EPA’s overall site cleanup activities, particularly for the residents whose properties were contaminated with toxic lead from the ASARCO smelter cleaned up.

It was also important to the children of the community – our efforts resulted in measurable health improvements: the percentage of children in eastern Omaha with elevated blood lead levels have been reduced from nearly 33 percent before 1998 to less than two percent today.

By reducing blood lead levels, you change people’s lives. You protect a child for his/her entire life and you change the health of a community. As part of one of the largest cleanup projects – particularly in an urban setting – in the Superfund program with over 40,000 largely lower-income residencies, I was very proud to acknowledge the public health impacts from eliminating lead exposure (significant reduction of blood lead levels in children) and the economic benefits of the cleanup.

I spoke with several people when I made the announcement and two really stood out in my mind. One individual explained that what began as basic outreach on public health resulted in a permanent institution in the community to look at children’s health at a multiple of ways that go beyond the lead cleanup.

I also spoke with the person that fields the calls from residents to deal with their issues on a day-to-day basis. They explained how challenging the work can be but understood how EPA can deal with community concerns regarding cleanups and explain how cleanups are done in a way that is protective but also accommodates their lives.

This isn’t easy work. Nor was the cleanup. It was easy to see how challenging these resident-by-resident cleanups were and I’m proud of the work EPA and contractors have done. This cleanup created hundreds of high-paying seasonal jobs and contributed to the development of a skilled labor force with job training funded through an EPA cooperative agreement with the Omaha Metropolitan Community College. Not only are we contributing to improving children’s health, but we’re transforming the community economically.

About the author: Mathy Stanislaus is assistant administrator for EPA’s Office Solid Waste and Emergency Response.

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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