If you’re a contractor or homeowner that’s about to work on a home built prior to 1978, you could be putting yourself at risk. In 1978, the federal government banned the consumer use of paint containing lead due to its dangerous toxicity. The worst part about lead poisoning is that it builds up in your body over a period of months or years. You’ll only experience symptoms once it’s at dangerous levels. Read on to learn everything you need to know about symptoms of lead poisoning and how lead abatement can completely eliminate the problem!
Knowing the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning means that this naturally occurring heavy metal has built up in your body to a degree that it’s started reaching dangerous levels. It enters the body through the mouth or by inhaling through the nose.
It often builds up in the body over a period of months or years. Exposure to old homes or toys that use lead paint is the most common source, and it can also be found in contaminated dust and some gasoline products.
Symptoms in Children
Unfortunately, children under the age of six years old are more sensitive to lead poisoning than adults. This is because their brains and nervous systems are still developing.
It usually enters their body when they touch paint or toys that contain lead and subsequently put their hands or fingers into their mouths. Dust contaminated from lead can also contaminate soil and be eaten by children.
Both children and adults will start exhibiting symptoms of lead poisoning only when the metal has already reached toxic levels in the body. Children often experience chronic poisoning with symptoms that appear over time, such as:
- Slowed growth
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Reduced IQ
- Hearing loss
- Abdominal pain
Acute lead poisoning is far more pronounced and can include jaundice, lethargy, seizures, vomiting, and black diarrhea.
Symptoms in Adults
Adults have a higher chance of getting lead poisoning if they work in jobs such as home improvement, construction, or auto repair shops. Lead-based paint was banned in 1978, so homes built before then have a chance of containing lead. After repeated exposure, adults can experience:
- Abdominal pain from ingested lead
- Muscle and joint pain
- High blood pressure
- Tingling and numbness in extremities
- Reduced fertility
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Mood disorders
It’s important that you get a blood test as soon as you suspect you could be experiencing lead poisoning.
Testing for Lead Poisoning
Fortunately, testing for lead poisoning for yourself or your child is easy and simple. Doctors only need to take blood through a simple prick of a finger or through a vein.
If doctors find that blood lead levels in a child are five micrograms per deciliter, they recommend preventive treatment. For adults, the safe upper level of blood lead levels is 10 micrograms per deciliter.
However, it’s important to know that there shouldn’t be any levels of lead in the blood–any number can cause harm.
Reducing Harm with Lead Abatement
Lead abatement is a specialized process that is meant to completely eliminate lead in a home. For contractors or homeowners that are anticipating doing construction or renovation on a section of a house that’s been built prior to 1978, lead abatement is a must to avoid potential lead poisoning.
The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires that all individuals and companies are certified in order to perform lead abatement projects. This ensures that they know how to follow the proper procedures in order to create as safe an environment as possible.
Properly certified contractors are able to identify whether there’s lead in paint through a number of methods:
X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF)
This is the quickest and most accurate sampling method for identifying lead on flat surfaces. Operators receive an instant readout of lead concentration that’s measured in lead per square centimeter.
Paint Chip Sampling
This is the second option if the XRF reading is inconclusive, or if a surface that might contain lead isn’t flat. The sample needs to be turned in to a laboratory and tested through Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedures (TCLP).
Lead Swab Spot Tests
This test only determines whether lead is present and not the exact amount. The color will change if lead is present. If there’s no color change, an XRF reading or paint chip sample still needs to be taken.
Lead Abatement Methods
Once the presence of lead has been confirmed, professionals will wear the appropriate PPE such as coveralls, respirators, goggles, gloves, and shoe covers to ensure that they don’t inhale the lead. Professionals are trained to not disturb the lead and cause dust, as well as keeping their working environment contained in one area.
They have a number of abatement options:
- Enclosure – The lead paint is covered
- Replacement – The structure containing lead paint is removed
- Removal – The lead paint is removed
- Encapsulation – A coating is used to seal and cover the lead paint
Creating a Safe Environment With Lead Abatement
Now that you know the symptoms of lead poisoning, you understand just how dangerous toxic levels of lead can be. It’s important that you’re aware of the year the building you’re planning on working on is built so that you know whether or not a lead abatement procedure needs to be met.
By hiring a professional that’s certified in lead abatement, you can completely eliminate the chances of developing toxic levels of lead in your blood.
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