Lead Poisoning FAQs

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What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning is a dangerous medical condition that results from increased levels of lead in a person's bloodstream. Lead poisoning is also known as saturnism.

What are the effects of lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning can cause several behavioral problems, brain damage, growth problems, visual impairments, hearing impairments, and even death, among various other ailments. Other less severe symptoms of lead poisoning include mild headaches, nausea, and abdominal pain. It has also been known to have damaging effects on the reproductive system and the kidneys.

How do you get lead poisoning?

The majority of lead poisoning cases occur in small children. A child is more likely to put into their mouths objects that have been in contact with lead-based paints. Older homes contain more lead-based paint than today's homes. Many times an old home's paint will chip away, creating a dust that contains traces of lead. The inhalation of this dust can result in lead poisoning. Lead has also been found in drinking water. Some homes have lead plumbing, while others contain lead fixtures both can result in lead poisoning. Exposure is not limited to pipes and paint, though. Surprisingly, lead can be found in many of the commodities used on a regular basis, such as jewelry, clothing, toys, household chemicals, and even table dishes. Test kits are available to test the levels of lead in these products.

What is the government's role?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set exposure limits to the amount of lead that can be found in workplaces in the United States. The EPA has set standards concerning lead in drinking water. The FDA concerns itself with the amount of lead found in food. According to OSHA, if an employee is exposed to lead for more than 8 hours in any work day, the permissible exposure limit, as a time weighted average (TWA) for that day, shall be reduced to the following formula:

Maximum permissible limit (in ug/m(3))=400 divided by hours worked in the day.

What are some ways to avoid lead poisoning?

If you are renting an apartment, be sure to contact your landlord in regards to lead paint in your apartment. He or she should be able to tell you if the apartment or home you are living in contains lead paint or other forms of lead. Most of the time, your landlord will make you aware of this before you rent the apartment.

If lead paint removal is an option for your apartment or residence, it is a good idea to keep children away from the home during the removal process. Removing lead paint can result in dust containing lead.

To avoid take-home lead exposure from the job site, there are a number of precautions to take, including the removal of work clothes as soon as arriving home, if not sooner; the washing of work clothes in a load separate from other laundry, especially children's clothing; washing of hands and face before leaving work and whenever exposure is at a circumstantial increase; showering of body and hair upon arriving home. Following these precautions can help prevent you and your family from the risks associated with lead exposure and poisoning.

How can I determine if my child or children have lead poisoning?

If you suspect that you or your children have been exposed to lead, it is important to see a doctor right away. The doctor will order a blood test to make sure that your child's blood does not contain an unsafe amount of lead. Other detections methods include re-evaluating the history of possible exposure related to your job sites, purchasing a spot test kit, and asking your landlord or home builder which types of paints were used in the house, even if they have since been removed.