Lead Poisoning: A Modern Plague Among Children

In our modern society, most children in industrialized countries do not have to worry about the black plague or yellow fever or other diseases that killed or damaged so many children in past centuries. There is, however, a much more prevalent and dangerous problem for children in our society: lead poisoning. Lead in the air, in paint, in soil call all have serious effects on children and can be far more dangerous than most types of cancer.

One of the Most Preventable Diseases

Despite the fact that it is possible to prevent any kind of lead exposure, most of the American public does not give a second thought to exposing their child to paint, dust, and soil, all of which can contain significant levels of lead.

Why is lead poisoning so dangerous? Lead’s most potent effect is on the neurological system, especially of children less than seven years old. In between ages one and seven, the neurological system is a crucial stage of development, and high levels of lead exposure during this time can damage the entire system. It has both short term and long term ripples, including learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral problems.

More than four million households have high levels of lead, in a number of different forms. Lead paint is one of the most common sources of exposure. The paint on the walls might contain lead, as well as the paint on toys and furniture. Because children are prone to putting anything and everything in their mouths, it’s not uncommon for a child living in a lead-painted environment to actually ingest flakes of lead paint.

There are currently about a half million children in this country between the ages of one and five that are living with more than five micrograms per deciliter of lead in their blood. This is above the level that the Center for Disease Control considers reasonable and at which they state that remediation should occur. While total overall levels of lead poisoning have started to decrease, lead continues to be an issue.

Children who eat lead paint will show physical signs of sickness, while children who are exposed to lead through pollution or dust will have now symptoms at the time of exposure, but will manifest some as the concentration of lead rises.

Lead Dangers Lurk in Unexpected Places

Lead exposure isn’t something that most people worry about today. A century ago, maybe, but not today. What most people don’t know, however, is that lead is still surprisingly common and hides in places you might not expect. Recent lead paint scares, for example, have shown that lead is still widely used today and that a dangerous dose is not actually that difficult to come by. Here are seven places lead may be lurking and what to do about it:

  1. Brass plumbing – If you live in a home built before 1986, you probably have lead in your plumbing. Even if you live in a home built after 1986, you might still be in dangers, as anything made of metal that is less than 8% lead can be labeled as lead-free. You’re going to want to test your water for lead and if you test positively, invest in a filter. 
  1. Lead in your bones – Sounds like science fiction, but if you’ve been exposed to lead, your body might be storing it in your bones and it is probably cycling regularly through your blood. Make sure you’re getting enough calcium, as long as that calcium supplement isn’t made from bone.
  1. Renovating your home – Lead paint is common in homes built before 1978, so if you’re doing a renovation, it’s possible to expose yourself to lead dust. If you’re doing major construction, you want to properly protect yourself and maybe even consider sealing off the work area. 
  1. Ceramic dishes – Anything made before 1960 out of ceramic probably has at least a little bit of lead in it. Test your ceramic dishes or switch over to another material to protect yourself.
  1. Community gardens – Because paint chips sometimes make their way into the soil used for community gardens, it’s possible that the soil contains lead. Use topsoil and compost to neutralize it and make sure the pH levels are above 6.5, as that will keep the plants from soaking up too much lead.
  1. Hunting and fishing – If you hunt your own game with lead bullets, you might be eating lead leached from that bullet into the meat. Additionally, fish can sometimes contain high levels of lead, picked up from lures or just from lead-contaminated water. To prevent this, use lead-free bullets when hunting and use sinkers and lures that do not contain lead.
  1. Paint, clay, and chalk – Many art supplies contain lead, which is supposed to improve the brightness of paint, clay, and chalk colors, especially the reds, oranges, greens, and blues. Shiny glazes for pottery are one of the main culprits of lead. To protect yourself, only buy lead-free art supplies and make sure your work space is well ventilated.

Lead Exposure May Cause Depression and Anxiety in Children

A high level of lead exposure has long been known to cause serious behavioral problems in children, however, a recent study has found that even low levels of exposure can create serious problems. Anxiety and depression were among two of the most common affects cited in the study.

This study was conducted in China, following over a thousand children in Jintan, where experts believed that pollution, caused by industrialization of the region, was seriously affecting the population. First tested as preschoolers, lead levels averaged at 6.5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Cognitive and behavior were then tested until the age of six, and there was a definite positive correlation between high levels of lead in the blood and depression, anxiety, and cognition.

Other studies focused mainly on lead exposure and its effects on the teenage population. The goal of this study was to confirm earlier tests and to prove that even low levels of lead exposure can begin to become a large problem. The study was conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and referenced earlier tests in which aggression and juvenile delinquency were closely linked to lead.

While teenagers who are exposed to this element are more likely to show outward aggression, especially to authority figures, the younger set was far more likely to internalize their anger and manifest it as increased anxiety or a depressed attitude. Reports of these moods came from both teachers and the children’s parents.

Until recently, the United States’ acceptable lead action level was as high as 10 micrograms per deciliter. That number has recently been lowered to 5 micrograms, though, in reality, the CDC admits, there is no number of micrograms that is safe for children. The Chinese’s level remains at 10 micrograms, despite the results of the study.

Where does this contamination come from? Largely from pollution. Though China no longer uses a lead additive in their gasoline, there is still plenty of pollution that contains lead, thanks to years of industry who used the lead-laced gas. Lead was also a main ingredient in many different kinds of paint, which are often used on toys. In recent years, when this was discovered, toys developed in China have been banned from many retailers, until the lead-paint issue has been resolved.

There is a third source of lead in China—the batteries on electronic bicycles. There is currently no system to deal with the dead batteries. Where the children in the study picked up their lead, it is impossible to tell.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

The Dangers of Lead Exposure

You have probably already heard that lead exposure is dangerous, but few people are aware of just how poisonous it is—or how common it is in our world. In the United States alone, there are at least 24 million homes where high lead levels are affecting the inhabitant’s quality of life. At least of sixth of those homes have young children, who are especially susceptible to lead poisoning—primarily because children are more likely to put foreign objects in their mouth and suck on them than adults are. Children younger than six are most likely to be affected by lead in a household.

But where is this lead found in homes? While “lead” pencils no longer contain lead, there are plenty of items in the typical American home that could contain this harmful substance. Items that have been coated in lead-based paint are the most common. Some homes, especially those that were built before 1978, likely have lead-based paint on the walls—though if the paint has since been covered with a lead-free coat, which is not chipping away, the family is likely safe.

Toys and rooms with chipping paint, are the most likely to expose children to hazardous led. When it comes to lead paint on the walls, there are basically two modes of action—carefully and safely chipping it all away and repainting with a non-lead-based paint, or simply painting it over with a safe paint and monitoring it to ensure the problem does not reoccur.

Any toys that were recently produced and distributed in China may contain lead-based paint, as it was recently revealed that toy companies who outsources their manufacturing to China, were using some lead-filled paints.

If you are sure that neither your walls, nor the toys are a source of lead, check your jewelry, water, soil, and cosmetics for lead. Until very recently, lead was used in the manufacture of jewelry and makeup, and lead from underlying rock formations or pollution could be leaching into the water supply. Luckily, it is easy to test your water and soil for lead exposure.

The federal government is very concerned about lead exposure rates in the population. Recent regulations have been tightened to ensure that lead paint and other household items that contain lead are discontinued and that the public is alerted to the dangers, as the home is not the only place that children might come into contact with lead.

If you or one of your family members has been exposed to lead, try to identify the source of the exposure and report it to the local government. The proper agencies will then be alerted to help remediate your house or yard.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.

What is Lead Poisoning?

What is lead poisoning?

  • Lead is a natural mineral that has been used in many products.
  • Lead is harmful to the human body.
  • There is no known safe level of lead in the body.
  • Small amounts of lead can build up in the body and cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. Buildup of lead in the body is referred to as lead poisoning.
  • Lead Poisoning is the most common environmental illness in California children.

Who should worry about lead poisoning?

Children under six years old and fetuses are at greatest risk of harmful health effects from lead poisoning as their brains and nervous systems are still forming.

  • They frequently crawl on floors or furniture contaminated with lead dust and put their hands or other objects in their mouths.
  • More of the lead that gets into their mouth is taken up into their bodies.
  • Much of the lead is stored in their bones.
  • Lead can be measured in their blood and remains in their bodies for a long time.

What are common sources of lead?

  1. Lead-based paint (pre-1978): It may have been used both inside and outside of a home and on furniture or objects in the home. Children may eat paint chips or chew on the surfaces of cribs, highchairs, windows, woodwork, walls, doors, or railings.
  2. Lead-contaminated soil: Lead may be in the soil where children play, especially near busy roadways or factories. The lead from gasoline used for many years has settled onto soil and is difficult to remove. This soil may also be tracked inside on shoes and clothing.
  3. Lead-contaminated dust from paint or soil: It clings to windowsills, floors, doorways and children’s toys, and is dangerous to young children who crawl and often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.

How to Remove Lead Based Paint

In order to properly and safely remove lead based paint, it is imperative to contact an expert.

Brickley Environmental is a leading environmental remediation company with 30 plus years’ experience providing expert lead-based paint abatement services in Southern California.

All of our technicians have been trained and certified in lead-based paint removal, and every project supervisor that oversees a lead-based paint containment or removal project is licensed by the State of California Department of Public Health. In addition, Brickley Environmental holds the State of California General Contractors License B with a Painting C-33 classification.

Contact an expert today by calling 1.800.530.3366

Summary of Risks and Sources of Lead Poisoning:

Young children are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning because they play and crawl inside and outside buildings built before 1978 and in soil and dust that may contain lead. Also, children between 12 and 24 months of age often have their hands or toys in their mouths.

To help prevent lead-tainted soil and dust from reaching your child, click here for Simple Steps to Protect Your Child From Lead Poisoning (PDF) New Window There are ways to test an item for lead content. Please contact your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for more information.

If your county does not have a local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, contact your local health department or the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch office.

About Brickley Environmental

Brickley Environmental creates safe-and-sound schools, homes, and buildings by designing and executing safe, cost-effective containment, abatement and removal solutions. We do it right the first time — making your profits predictable while supporting your ethical standards and reputation for excellence — and have served Southern California for over 30 years.