Fixer-upper shows are still all the rage on TV. In the span of an hour we get to see a house go from drab to fab. What they might not show you in the process is the fact that they may have already had the house tested and possibly treated for lead.
In the scheme of things, it's not that long ago...1978…that the government required paint manufacturers to stop using lead in their products. Many first-time home buyers will purchase a home that is around 50 to 61 years old. The chance that lead based paint is present is very likely. Even if you own a newer home, it's important to know your facts and how to address a problem, should it arise.
FACT: Children under the age of 6 are most susceptible to lead exposure because of their tendency to place their hands and other objects in their mouths. Their bodies also absorb the poison faster, so after only a few months of exposure, lead levels in the blood become alarmingly high.
FIX: If you reside in an older home, try to keep dust at a minimum, since that could be contaminated. We know it's a challenge to discourage little ones from putting things in their mouths, but do try your best. Encourage hand washing and wash items frequently played with. Be aware of vintage wooden toys as well, they could have been painted with lead-based paints.
FACT: Remodeling projects in older homes, in particular, scraping or sanding old paint from walls and woodwork, can create the harmful lead-based dust.
FIX: It is a good idea to test any painted surface you may feel is harmful. Test kits can be purchased from stores or you could hire a professional to test areas as well. If a test is positive it is recommended an EPA approved contractor handle the remodel. If you chose to do the project yourself, follow these guidelines.
Work in one room at a time and seal off the area so dust does not travel into other rooms of the home.
Children and pregnant women should not be a part of the project.
Wear disposable coveralls, shoes, hair covering and goggles. These items should be washed separately every day. You should also shower right after you are done working.
Invest in a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) respirator to filter lead dust and fumes. Simple paper or fabric dust masks will NOT protect you from lead dust.
Clean up daily and immediately throw away cleaning materials used. Use a vacuum with a HEPA filter.
FACT: The symptoms of lead poisoning often mask as the common cold or flu.
FIX: Know what to look for in children and adults. You may notice the following immediately, but also be aware that some symptoms can appear months or years after exposure.
In children: Irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss and seizures.
In adults: High blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory or concentration, headaches, abdominal pain and mood disorders.
If you feel you or someone in your home has been exposed, make an appointment with your doctor immediately. A simple blood test can determine your levels and then treatment can be prescribed.
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