Lead Paint And Children

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Despite the well-defined impacts of using lead in paint, and its ban in homes, schools, and hospitals since 1970, the problems of lead poisoning continue into the 21st century.

Paint that includes lead as an ingredient has long been valued for its mildew resistance and anti-corrosive properties. In a manufacturing setting, leaded paint is easier to apply and dries faster than paint without lead. Aesthetically, lead in paint provides brighter, less transparent colors than other additives. Lead adds a flexible quality to paint that contributes to durability. Finally, the addition of lead to paint is significantly less expensive than any of the currently available alternatives.

Because lead has a sweet flavor, children have a tendency to put the paint chips into their mouths and to chew on painted objects such as toys, windowsills, and furniture. Since the body does not naturally excrete heavy metals, the ingested lead builds up, eventually reaching toxic levels. In a child's growing body, the tissues, muscles, and organs are more vulnerable to the effects of lead poisoning than they would be in an adult. Ingesting lead paint is the most common source of lead exposure in children, but there are other ways in which lead can enter a child's body. Inhaling lead dust that is created as lead paint chalks, peels, or chips from surfaces that are corroding can also exposure children to lead. Lead dust can also settle on floors, walls, and furniture if it is deteriorating. Children can ingest this dust from hand-to-mouth contact or even by ingesting it with their food. This dust can re-enter the air during sweeping, dusting, vacuuming or even by casual movement of people throughout the home.

Even without symptoms or known exposure, babies and young children up to the age of six should be tested every year for lead levels in their blood. If the child is without insurance coverage that pays for the test, most counties will do it free of charge. This regular testing can catch lead issues even before symptoms develop and, therefore, prevent the possibility of permanent damage. Early symptoms may include lethargy, irritability, loss of appetite, abdominal discomfort, attention disorders, insomnia and constipation. Failure to treat lead exposure in the early stages can lead to long-term or irreversible health damage in children.

If a child's blood test shows levels of lead that are high enough to be a cause for concern, the doctor will request that the housing authority conduct a study of the home environment for contributing factors. If leaded paint is found, federal regulations require the owner or landlord to remove or encapsulate the old paint and replace it with new paint that does not contain lead. Additionally, a child who has high levels of lead in his/her system may be given medication that will cause the lead to be removed and excreted through the urine.

Under the law, landlords who own apartment buildings must conform to precise requirements related to lead-based paint. Every three years, landlords are required to repaint every apartment that is occupied. They should do a lead inspection of every apartment, if the apartment was built before 1960 and if a child who is under seven years old is living in the building.

An individual who owns a multi-complex housing unit is required to cover up the lead-based paint inside the home's interior walls, doors, windows, ceilings and moldings, as long as a child under six years old lives there. Any discovery of peeling paint in any multiple units that were built before 1960 is considered by the law to be in violation of the health code.

A child who has suffered lead intoxication from paint or any other source may go on to suffer learning disabilities and behavior problems as well as other health issues. An attorney or a county health department can assist in making sure that the child's rights are protected and that all appropriate educational services are made available. If the child needs to be moved to a different environment in order to avoid future lead exposure, some counties offer assistance to facilitate either temporary or permanent relocation.