Inside and outside our homes, we are exposed to toxins and contaminants. It is impossible to prevent all exposures, but poisoning from lead based paint and dust can be prevented. Adults, children, and pets are at risk, but especially children with their nature of putting everything in their mouth. When I first started reading about possible exposure to lead, my son was just starting to become mobile. Our 100 year old home was starting to lose what I thought was character and instead became a potential hazard.
According to the Minnesota Department of Health, approximately 75% percent of homes built before 1978 contain some lead-based paint. Lead-based paint was used on both the inside and outside of buildings and is a concern for adults, children, and pets. Lead poisoning may cause permanent problems with health, learning, and behavior in children. Adults can suffer from high blood pressure, kidney damage, and fertility problems. You can be exposed to lead any time you breathe dust or fumes from lead or swallow anything that contains lead.
Rather than wonder if we had any potential issues in our home, I decided to take action. The best place to start to accumulate information on preventing exposure is the MN Department of Health (health.state.mn.us). Through the website or by calling 651-215-0890, you can order fact sheets as well as videos on how to safely prevent exposure to lead. The next step is to determine where and if your house has any hazards. The only way to know if the paint, dust, drinking water, or soil does not contain lead is to have it tested. Testing can be done with a home test kit or by a laboratory. Home test kits can be purchased at most hardware stores; however, many cities actually have lead hazard programs. A licensed risk assessor can also be hired to evaluate your home for lead.
If you prefer to have the testing done in a lab and you live in Ramsey or Hennepin County, you can contact the county offices for a lead based paint inspection. This includes x-ray testing of all painted, varnished, or coated surfaces in a residence as well as soil and dust sample testing. Depending on your income level, you may be eligible for reduced fees or free testing as well as help with the work to fix any problems. If your county does not offer these services, you can search for independant companies online or in the phone book. Call around and find out exactly what their fee involves, how much testing is done, and whether or not there is any follow up.
The county reports include a detailed assessment of the interior and exterior of the home as well as guidance to fix each identified hazard. The work can be done by a licensed contractor or homeowner. Certain counties offer classes for nominal fees on working with lead-based paint. If you contracted the county to do the testing, you can also have them do a clearance assessment with dust samples to ensure all of the hazards have been addressed.
The idea of living with lead-based paint or exposure to lead dust can be scary, but with the right information and practices, exposure is completely preventable.
Center for Disease Control, cdc.gov
hennepin.us, search for â€œLead Hazard Control Grant