Getting Real About Risk – Thinking Outside The Toxic Toy Box

Everybody is concerned about lead on toys, but lead exposure is more likely from other sources. So you have to think outside the toy box if you want to reduce lead exposure.

First, figure out whether you may have lead paint where you live or where your child spends a significant amount of time (grandma’s house, daycare, preschool, etc.).  If the home (or daycare or school) was constructed prior to 1978, it is likely that lead paint was used.  Lead paint was banned in 1978. 

If you aren’t sure, you can have your home inspected.  Different types of inspections eist.  The first type is a lead hazard screen.  In this inspection, the inspector determines whether a home has a potential for lead hazards.  The second inspection type will sample paint surfaces in the home to determine the presence and location of lead paint hazards  This will tell you whether lead paint exists in the home, but won’t make recommendations as to what to do or how much of a risk there is.  The last type is a risk assessment, which evaluates the risks associated with the lead found in the home.

So you  have lead in your home, or you are pretty sure you have lead in your home, what do you do?  If the paint is in poor condition (chipped, worn, flaking, etc.), then it needs to be addressed.  Don’t do it yourself – you need to have a professional take care of it.  If you can’t take care of it right now, you can still take some simple steps to reduce exposure.  These interim steps can substantially reduce exposure.   Also, depending on where you live, there are some programs that provide financial assistance for lead paint abatement. 

Even if the paint is in good condition, it can be a problem if it is present on surfaces that children chew on, such as railings, or that experience friction, such as door and window jambs where painted surfaces rub against one another can create lead contaminated dust.

Having a new home doesn’t mean you are home free.  Even if your home was built after 1978, you may still have lead in your household dust.  Lead is present in our soils from its former use in gasoline, from weathering or chipping of lead paint from buildings, bridges, and other structures, and from industrial sources such as lead smelters, hazardous waste sites, battery manufacturing facilities, construction sites, and garages working with car batteries, among others.  This dust is blown into our homes, day care centers, schools and work environments.  A study reported in Environmental Health Perspectives found that wind blown contamianted dust may be a significant source of lead poisoning for children living in cities.  The study was able to correlate children’s blood lead levels with certain weather conditions that were positive for blowing dust.

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