Lead Exposure in the Home

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Philip Landrigan, MD
We allowed lead to be used in paint in this country until the mid 1970s, so if a family lives in a house that was built before 1975 or 76, they really have to assume that there is lead paint there until proven otherwise. And lead paint deteriorates over time. It flakes. It chips. Little bits of it get down into the floor and onto the rug. And so a little child crawling on the floor of an older home is at real risk of being exposed to lead--taking it into their body by hand or mouth contact and then getting lead poison, and suffering loss of IQ, having brain injury, alteration of behavior. So the smart thing to do before a family moves into an older house is get a professional. Get a certified professional who will come to the house and use state-of-the-art equipment to test the house for lead. And then if there's any lead, get professionals to remove it. One of the worst mistakes a family can make during pregnancy or with little kids in the home is to try to remove the lead paint themselves because when you start to sand or otherwise remove the lead paint, scrape it, you create clouds of lead dust. Pregnant women, little kids can get that lead into their body and the consequences can be devastating. So always, always spend a few dollars, go to a professional, get it done right, you'll save much more money in the long run.