What is Lead?

What Is Lead Poisoning?

Many homes built before 1978 can have old lead paint. If paint peels, cracks or is worn down, the chips and dust can spread around the home and onto children’s hands and toys and into their mouths. Children put items like hands and toys in their mouths often so it is important to wash hands and toys before meals, playtime and bedtime.

Lead poisoning happens when you eat, swallow, or breathe in dust from old lead paint. The body stores lead in places like the bones and brain and even the smallest amounts can be harmful. No amount of lead in the body is safe. A child’s body can absorb lead more easily and can be harmful to their growth, behavior, and ability to learn.

Most children show no symptoms of lead poisoning so routine testing is important. For children up to age 6 years old, your doctor or nurse should ask you at every Well-Child visit about lead poisoning and may require a blood test.

The blood test tells you how much lead is in the blood. Remember, no amount of lead in the body is safe. Sometimes the blood test may need to be repeated to make sure that the test results are accurate.

For more information on how lead can harm the body, visit the CDC’s website on Lead

Information for Pregnant Women:
  • In addition to children, pregnant women can also be affected by lead poisoning.
  • Lead can get into an adult’s body through dust from old paint around surfaces in the home, water from old plumbing, and from certain jobs, hobbies and cosmetics.
  • A pregnant woman can pass lead to her unborn baby causing things like premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage or stillbirth, and learning and behavior problems.

 

How Does Lead Get Into the Body?

There are many sources of lead in homes and in the environment around us. Lead can be found in:

The Home

  • Paint dust and paint chips can be found inside and outside of homes built before 1978.
  • Inside the home, there can be old paint on walls, windowsills and doors that gets worn down when they’re used every day. The paint can chip or flake and become dust that can then be breathed in or swallowed. Sometimes, kids like to chew on painted surfaces like windowsills, ledges and furniture and can ingest the lead paint.
  • Outside the home, old paint on exterior walls can chip and flake off and land in the soil.  When children play in the soil, the paint chips may stick to their hands and they could get it in their mouths. Sometimes, vegetables that are grown in contaminated soil can contain lead and should be planted in raised beds using new soil.

Water

  • The Louisville Water Company states: “Public health is at the core of Louisville Water Company’s mission and lead is not a public health concern as it relates to the city’s drinking water. Louisville’s drinking water does not contain lead when it leaves the treatment plants. Lead can become a potential risk for drinking water in the distribution system with lead pipes and plumbing and inside a customer’s home where they may be lead pipes and fixtures.” The LWC regularly receives requests from customers to test their water for lead and also from CLPPP when we conduct our Environmental Investigations. 
  • For more information or to find out how you can request your water to be tested, visit their website here. 

How Can I Find Out if There is Lead in My Home?

  • If you think you may live in a home with lead paint, you can have someone perform a Certified Risk Assessment.  A list of Lead Certified companies for the state of Kentucky can be found by clicking here.
  • For more information on where lead can be found in your home or in the environment, visit HUD and the EPA’s websites.

Other Sources of Lead

  • Traditional home remedies and cosmetics
    • Some traditional remedies such as azarcón and greta as well as cosmetics like kohl may have lead.  Always check the label and/or ingredients list before consuming or applying to the skin. If you have any questions or are unsure if a product contains lead, contact CLPPP before using.
  • Jobs and hobbies
    • Certain occupations and hobbies may contain lead parts or create potentially hazardous lead waste that can rub off on skin and clothing and can be carried home with you.  Some jobs or hobbies that may expose you to lead include:
       
      • Auto work
      • Renovation work
      • Furniture refinishing
      • Metal work/welding
      • Stained glass
      • Battery recycling/smelting
      • Plumbing
      • Casting aluminum
      • Scrap yards
      • Firing ranges/firearms
      • Making bullets, sinkers, metal toys
         
  • If you work with lead or materials that may contain lead, be sure to change clothing and shoes before leaving the work site and wash them separately from other items. Wash your hands frequently, especially before touching items in the home, food, or children.
     

How you can help to prevent lead poisoning at home

Lead hazards can be found all around us.  That’s why it is important to always keep a clean home, wash hands before eating, playtime, and bedtime and eating a well-balanced diet. A diet high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C rich foods can help to block absorption of lead particles that may have entered the body. Foods high in fat, sugar and salt can cause the body to hold onto lead particles so be sure to limit foods high in those.  

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