Friday, July 17, 2015

Study Finds New Dangers of Lead Exposure

Lead exposure during pregnancy can affect infants’ brain development.


Lead exposure can cause lifelong damage.
Protecting children from lead exposure should start even
before birth.
Photo from tiptimes.com. 
The dangers of lead exposure are widely recognized: lead poisoning can damage the heart, bones, intestines, kidneys, and more and can cause learning disorders in children. A recent study adds another danger to this list: pregnant women exposed to lead give birth to children who score lower on tests measuring brain development. While adults, even pregnant women, are typically less susceptible to the effects of lead exposure than children are, this finding reveals that even a small amount of lead can lead to worrying results.

The study’s findings are worrying, since the long-term effects of lead exposure on children are widely documented. While there has been minimal research on newborns, lead poisoning during childhood is proven to cause long-lasting hardship for those affected. A Boston-based study, for example, found that “childhood lead exposure may have a persistent and irreversible effect” and confirmed that even slight exposure to lead may cause decreased IQ, trouble in school, and difficulty finding a job later in life. Other risks include risky or delinquent behavior during adolescence and even criminal behavior as an adult.


Because of the serious risks associated with lead exposure, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) oversees regulations around lead abatement and lead-safe renovations to minimize the danger to children as well as adults. While lead can occasionally be found in food, the primary source of lead in the United States is old lead paint, which can be released during construction and then inhaled or consumed. Children or pregnant women who spend time near a construction site that includes lead paint are placed at great risk. Construction workers can also create a risk for themselves and their families, by bringing home this lead dust on their work clothes. The EPA’s lead-safe regulations provide guidelines to create a safe environment for tenants and workers, preventing lead poisoning.


While the effects of lead exposure may not be immediately obvious, this study’s findings highlight the importance of taking lead exposure – and lead abatement – seriously. As lead paint was banned in the US in 1978, homeowners and tenants in pre-1978 residences should take extra precautions. All renovation or painting work should be performed by someone who has been trained and certified in lead-safe work practices. Here are additional steps from the CDC to prevent lead poisoning:
  • Have your home tested for lead paint
  • Children or pregnant women should not be present during a renovation of a pre-1978 home
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint
  • Regularly clean floors and windows with a wet cloth to remove household dust
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys
  • Avoid using traditional folk medicine and cosmetics that may contain lead
  • Avoid giving the child candies imported from Mexico
  • Check to make sure you dishes and storage containers are labeled lead-free
  • Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry immediately from children

Landlords, Renovators, Painters, Installers, Contractors: Do your part to prevent child lead poisoning - get EPA Lead Certified before performing any work on pre-1978 homes.