Angie’s List: Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning is 100-percent preventable. Unfortunately, thousands of kids are still getting sick. It

Lead poisoning is 100-percent preventable. Unfortunately, thousands of kids are still getting sick. It’s important to test your children and your home, to protect your family.

Lead paint lurks in 40-percent of the nation’s homes, about 36 million homes across the US.

Cheryl Turcotte, a former EPA supervisor, says, “Any amount, even the tiniest, tiniest bit on the tip of our finger will have an impact on a child.”

Kids under the age of six are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect physical and mental development.

They don’t have to eat or chew lead-based paint chips to be poisoned. Most kids are poisoned when they breathe in or swallow lead dust.

Dollis Wright, an environmental health risk expert, says, “Especially if you live in a home that’s built before 1978 you probably have older windows so every time you open those windows and close them, you might not see it, but it’s happening inside those little crevices of the window.”

Dangerous amounts of lead dust can also be created when lead-based paint is disturbed during renovation, repair or painting jobs. That’s why federal law requires any contractor who disturbs lead paint to be EPA certified and follow strict work practices to prevent contamination.

Angie Hicks, from Angie’s List, says, “For example they should be using HEPA filters. They should be using plastic sheeting to completely seal off the area. They should also wear protective foot covers, protective clothing. If you see any signs that make you uncomfortable, you should stop the work immediately.”

In a recent sting, Angie’s List called 150 renovation contractors and questioned them about lead-safe practices. Nearly 11-percent offered bad advice and nearly 32-percent admitted they did not have the required EPA lead-safety certification.

Hicks adds, “Angie’s List has been a champion of safe lead practices for many, many years and continues to work to raise awareness about lead paint poisoning. Also we’re denoting on company records, if they’re working on houses before 1978, if they don’t have proper certification.”

If you’re planning a remodeling project, arm yourself with information and verify your contractor has the proper training.

“Even if you live in a newer house, you should always be concerned about where your children visit. Is grandma’s house built before 1978?

Other family members, even a day care, because in those scenarios, you want to be sure that those places are safe as well. Because it takes a small amount of lead for a child to get lead poisoning,” Hicks says.

Wright says, “There’s no cure for it and so, once you’re poisoned it’s for life.”

Which is why now is the time to get the lead out. Only a blood test can confirm lead poisoning.

If you have concerns about lead exposure, push your child’s doctor to do an evaluation.

Experts say if your house was built before 1978, assume the paint has lead in it unless tests show otherwise.

Angie’s List: Lead Safety Checklist

· Confirm the firm’s EPA certification, and request proof that at least one person supervising your project completed certified training in lead-safe practices.

· Before any work begins, the contractor must provide you the EPA’s “Renovate Right” lead hazard pamphlet. Be wary if they don’t do this on their own.

· Once the job starts, the contractor must completely contain the work area in plastic sheeting. Furniture should be moved out or completely covered. Doors, windows and heating/cooling vents should be sealed off.

· Pets and non-workers must be prevented from entering the work area.

· For exterior jobs, plastic sheeting must extend at least 10 feet in all directions from the point where paint is disturbed. If the work takes place within 10 feet of the property line, extra precautions such as vertical containment must be used to protect neighbors.

· Any grinding, scraping or sanding must be done with tools equipped with a shroud and HEPA vacuum attachment. Wet sanders and misters should be used to minimize dust.

· No open-flame burning or torching is allowed, and heat guns cannot be used at temperatures higher than 1,100 degrees.

· The contractor must clean the work site daily, taking special care before removing the plastic to use a HEPA vacuum to clean all dust and debris and wet-wipe and wet-mop all surfaces.

· Make sure the contractor doesn’t track or carry lead dust away from the work area. They should wear disposable shoe covers and outer clothing, and vacuum all personal items leaving the work area.

· All debris must be secured in plastic sheeting or heavy-duty plastic bags and disposed of off-site.

· If local rules allow, water used for cleanup should be filtered and dumped in a toilet. If not allowed, water should be collected in a drum and taken off-site.

· EPA rules require the contractor to verify cleanliness with a visual inspection and a dust wipe test. However, the only way to be certain the area’s clean is through a clearance exam conducted by a third party, which analyzes samples at a lab.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
· Tiredness or crankiness
· No appetite
· Headaches
· Nausea or vomiting
· Constipation
· Not able to sleep
· Clumsiness or weakness
· Lower IQ levels
· Shortened attention span
· Increase in behavioral problems

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