Use caution in renovations

BY MICHELLE BROOKS

Democrat staff

There comes a time in the life of every home of some age for update or renovation.

If that home was painted prior to 1978, the outdated appearance may not be all that needs updating.

Lead was a common ingredient in paints before that time.

Any chipping or cracking in paint from that era could lead to aerosolizing or settling of lead dust particles.

Ingesting lead by mouth or nose could build up to poisoning, especially in children ages six and younger because their developing nervous system absorbs the element faster.

“In the last century, more awareness and effort has been made to remove lead from the environment,” said Jaime Young, a registered nurse and the communicable disease coordinator for the Cole County Health Department.

Do-it-yourselfers should be aware of this health risk and consider alternatives or precautions before removal.

But the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has amped up its expectations for contractors and construction professionals. Stiff fines could be lodged on those who work on areas with lead surfaces if they do not safely remove and dispose of the toxin.

Advancing Healthy Housing — A Strategy for Action was unveiled in February by several federal agencies.

The goal is to improve the welfare of low-income people by reducing health and safety hazards.

Statistics suggest Americans spend about 70 percent of their time in a home.

“The health and economic burdens from preventable hazards associated with the home are considerable, and cost billions of dollars,” an EPA press release said.

Other physical housing problems include dilapidated structures, roofing problems, heating, plumbing or electrical deficiencies, water leaks and intrusions, pests, and high radon gas levels.

Lead is naturally occurring element found in small amounts in the soil.

It has been used in a variety of domestic products including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solder, gasoline, batteries, ammunition and cosmetics, according to the EPA.

Young added old water pipes, homemade fishing weights, stained glass windows, toys, pottery, soaps and other hygiene products to the list.

“There’s a common misconception that everything we buy has been prescreened for lead,” Young said of household goods, particularly made in other nations.

Older playground equipment may still contain lead-based paint and artificial turf or playground surfaces made with shredded rubber can contain lead, too.

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system, a lower IQ, hearing problems and a slowed growth. For pregnant women, lead toxicity could cause miscarriage or premature birth.

The EPA suggests having surfaces tested for lead before beginning a renovation and to hire a lead-safe certified contractor if it exists.

Drinking water in homes with non-plastic plumbing installed before 1986 also should be tested.

Keeping home interiors dust-free and washing hands and shoes after being outside are other recommended precautions.

If lead poisoning is suspected in children, a pediatrician can determine it with a simple blood test.

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