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57 Ways To Protect Your Home Environment (and Yourself)
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41. Prevent Contamination By Lead

family in their livingroom

You cannot see trace amounts of lead. You cannot taste it. You cannot smell it. But when lead is swallowed or inhaled, it can cause health problems, especially for children and pregnant women.

Although lead-based paint continues to be used for exterior metals, it is no longer sold for household use. Nevertheless, old coats of lead-based paint may surround you on the woodwork, cabinets, and porch of your house. To find out if the paint in your home contains lead, contact the local health department for assistance.

scraping paint

If you are doing renovations that call for sanding or scraping away bottom layers of paint, have the older layers tested in addition to the top layer. If you discover layers of lead-based paint, check the Yellow Pages or contact the state health department to locate licensed paint-removal companies that can deal with lead paint.
wiping window sill

Also, monitor window sills, furniture, floors, and carpets for paint chips and dust. Clean these areas regularly. If the paint is peeling or chipping, consider covering the surface with wallpaper or contact paper. Finally, wash children’s hands before they eat or go to bed. If they have lead dust on their hands and then stick their fingers in their mouths, they can ingest the lead. Prevent children from chewing on anything covered with lead paint or dust.
lead test kit

There are home test kits designed to check for lead in paint, soil, and dust. Most contain a chemical that changes color in the presence of lead. These kits are relatively inexpensive, provide quick results, and are widely available. However, according to the National Safety Council, their accuracy has not yet been proven in independent field studies, so don’t make decisions on the presence of lead based on test-kit results.
home

Consider having your drinking water tested for lead if you know or suspect that your home’s water system has lead pipes or is served by a lead service connection. Homes built in the 1950s or before may have lead pipes or lead connections to the service main. Also, if you have a child with excessive lead levels in the blood, consider having your water tested.
drinking from a ceramic cup

Lead can leach into food through the use of ceramic dishes that haven’t been glazed properly. Of particular concern is the frequent or daily use of ceramic mugs for hot beverages, which are more apt to cause lead to leach than cold ones. Acidic cold beverages also have a tendency to cause leaching of lead.
child getting a check up

Lead poisoning does not always produce symptoms. To find out if your children have elevated levels of lead, consult with your doctor and have a blood test performed. If the blood-lead level is over the maximum acceptable level, don’t panic, but talk to your doctor about precautions that you can take to prevent the level from rising any higher.
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