Lead (Pb), like most metals, is naturally found in the earth’s crust. It is a cheap and malleable metal that is harmful at all levels to humans. Now, largely because of industrialization, Pb can be found not only in our soil, but also our air and water supply.
The oldest know use was discovered Egyptian artwork from 4,000 B.C., and has been used throughout the millennia by ancient and modern civilizations alike, including the Roman, Medieval and Renaissance Europe, as well as our own. Used in various products which require metal (pipes, pots and pans, jewelry), in cosmetics and paints for its luster, and in food and wine as a preservative.
According to the CDC, Pb “harms children between the ages of 0 and 6 years old. If you are pregnant, lead may also harm your baby.” While it affects young children and pregnant women the most severely, it can cause damage at any age.
Infographic from the CDC
In the United States, it was widely used in products until the 1970’s. Sparked by concerns surrounding the automotive industry’s use in gasoline the EPA found that exhaust from the leaded gasoline was causing a direct threat to public health, specifically to young children and pregnant women.
Even though it’ no longer found in our automotive gasoline, it’s effects remain prominent in our communities today.
Surprising places you and your family could be exposed to Pb:
- In homes built before 1978 If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has Pb-based paint. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of Pb-containing paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Pb from paint, including Pb-contaminated dust, is one of the most common causes of Pb poisoning.”
- In soilIn addition, soil, yards and playgrounds can become contaminated when exterior Pb-based paint from houses or buildings flakes or peels and gets into the soil. Soil may also be contaminated from past use of leaded gasoline in cars, from industrial sources, or even from contaminated sites, including former Pb smelters.”
- In tap waterPb can enter drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have Pb pipes, fixtures and solder. However, new homes are also at risk: even legally “lead-free” plumbing may contain up to eight percent lead.”
- Metal products from other countries Such as cookware, candy or medicine wrappers.
- Old or imported toys and toy jewleryThat favorite dump truck or rocking chair handed down in the family, antique doll furniture, or toy jewelry could contain lead-based paint or contain lead in the material it is made from. Biting or swallowing toys or toy jewelry that contain lead can cause a child to suffer from lead poisoning.
- On the job Do you work in construction, plumbing, car mechanics? Materials used in these professions are known to contain Pb.
Symptoms of Pb poisoning include:
- Trouble focusing
- Nausea and vomiting
- Decrease in appetite
- Hearing loss
If you are concerned that you or our family have been exposed to lead. . .
- Talk with your medical provider about getting tested. Lead levels can be checked with blood work. If your lead levels are high there are medications that can help reduce them.
- Have your home’s drinking water tested.
- You can have your home tested for lead hazards. If your paint has been properly maintained, is not chipping, and there is no paint dust, your home is generally considered safe. Before doing any construction, find a lead-safe certified renovation firm, especially if your home was built prior to 1978.
You’ve heard about Lead, but what about mercury and aluminum exposure?