Creating a Lead Safe Home
Creating a Lead-Safe Home
contact: (207) 287-2651
What is a lead-safe home?
A lead-safe home is a home in which there are no lead hazards. Lead hazards include lead-based paint in poor condition, lead-based paint on friction surfaces such as doors and windows, high levels of lead in exposed soil, and lead in drinking water. Lead-based paint that is in good condition (that is, it is not chipped, peeling or flaking) is only a lead hazard if it is on a window or door where friction will wear the paint into lead dust, or if a child can mouth it.
Why is it important to have a lead-safe home?
A lead-safe home minimizes the likelihood of lead-poisoning. Studies show that children with high lead levels are more likely to have lower IQ scores, slower development, and greater attention problems than children with lower lead levels. Acute lead poisoning can cause death. Lead is especially dangerous to children six years of age and under, to pregnant women, and to nursing mothers.
How can I find out if there is lead in my home?
To get an accurate report of all lead in your home, you need to hire a licensed lead inspector to conduct a complete inspection. The inspector will test painted surfaces to determine the level of lead in the paint, and, if you request, will also test your drinking water and any exposed soil. S/he will also tell you if there are any immediate lead hazards in your home. Lead-based paint was outlawed for home use in 1978, so homes built since 1978 will probably not have lead-based paint in them (other than possibly on older furniture). To get a list of licensed lead inspectors, please call the DEP Lead Licensing & Enforcement Program at (207)287-2651.
What should I do to prevent lead poisoning if there is lead in my home?
There is a range of actions you can take, depending on whether any lead hazards exist, the nature and severity of lead hazards, financial resources, and the long-term plans for your property. These actions include:
- Abatement of lead hazards - Abatement of lead hazards means the permanent elimination of lead hazards through removal, encapsulation, or enclosure. According to Maine law, all abatement must be done by a licensed lead abatement contractor. The abatement contractor uses trained and certified personnel to ensure that all abatement work is done safely and that no environmental lead hazards remain when the job is finished. Workers will use personal protective gear such as coveralls and respirators, will isolate and restrict access to the work area to prevent exposure of residents to lead dust, and will thoroughly clean the work area with specialized equipment so that no lead hazards are left. You may also get a list of licensed lead abatement contractors from the DEP Lead Licensing & Enforcement Program at (207)287-2651.
- Lead-safe renovation and remodeling - Any construction, demolition or remodeling activity on a building with lead-based paint can create high lead hazards for workers and residents. To protect yourself, your family, and any tenants, you can use a licensed lead abatement contractor with workers who have been trained and certified in lead abatement. If you are planning to do your own remodeling, you can protect yourself and your family by following guidance on using safe work practices and appropriate personal protective equipment. You can get such guidance by calling the DEP’s Lead Licensing & Enforcement Program at (207)287-2651.
- Routine maintenance and thorough cleaning - Good routine maintenance on a home can prevent the creation of lead hazards. This includes: identifying all surfaces with lead-based paint; isolating any area when lead-based paint will be disturbed during repair or maintenance work; using appropriate personal protective equipment, such as coveralls and respirators; following good hygiene practices when working, including washing hands before eating or smoking and removing protective clothing before leaving the work area; and performing specialized clean-up to eliminate any lead dust. Also, cleaning areas with lead-based paint can significantly decrease children’s exposure to lead dust and lead paint chips. Frequent thorough washing of floors, window wells, and window sills with warm water and an all-purpose household cleaner will remove invisible lead dust. This is most important in preventing lead poisoning.
- Personal hygiene and good nutrition - Make sure your children always wash their hands before eating. Eating green leafy vegetables also helps prevent the body from absorbing lead if it is ingested. Don’t let children or pets play near the side of pre-1978 homes where there may be high levels of lead paint in the soil. Have children remove their shoes before coming in the house to prevent them from tracking lead dust onto floors where younger children play. If any adults have jobs that involve lead, such as painting, brake repair, or renovation work, be sure they remove all work clothing, including footwear, before entering the home. Also, wash these work clothes separately from the rest of the household’s clothing.
Are there lead hazards other than paint, water, and contaminated soil that can cause lead poisoning?
Yes. Older toys, painted furniture, pottery from other countries, and some non-glossy vinyl miniblinds have all been identified as common sources of lead that have caused lead poisoning. To prevent lead poisoning from these sources you should throw out old crayons and non-glossy vinyl miniblinds made in China, Taiwan, Mexico, or Indonesia (unless these mini-blinds have been recently purchased and certified as lead-free); do not cook or serve food on pottery from other countries unless it is certified as being lead-free; and keep furniture with old paint away from young children.
How can I tell if my child is lead poisoned?
A blood test is the only way to tell for sure that a child has high levels of lead in his or her body. All children between the ages of 6 months and six years should have their blood lead level screened. Your health care provider can give you more information on how to have your child screened for lead poisoning.
For more information on the health effects of lead poisoning, please consult your family physician or local public health clinic.