Lead poisoning is a serious risk for children. It can lead to brain damage, slowed development, hearing and speech problems, and learning or behavior problems. There is no known safe level of lead exposure, and in some parts of the U.S., incidents of lead poisoning are on the rise. In Nevada, for example, there were 175 reports of lead poisoning in 2017. In 2015, there were only 43 instances.
If you live in an older home, your family is at a greater risk of being exposed to dangerous levels of lead. Here are five ways to protect you and your family from lead exposure.
1. Have Your Home Tested
If your home was built before 1978, consider having your home tested for lead. Your local health department can guide you through the testing process.
If you don’t know how old your home is, you can assume that there is lead. Homes in the Midwest and Northeast are more likely to have lead in their paint.
As a general rule of thumb, lead paint is in:
- 87% of homes built before 1940
- 69% of homes built between 1940 and 1959
- 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1977
If you’re renting a home, ask your landlord about lead paint before signing a lease. Hire some professional painters to redo your home with lead-free paint. If you’re buying an older home, you may want to have it inspected for lead before closing.
2. Get Your Water Tested
About 10%-20% of childhood lead poisoning is caused by contaminated drinking water. Old plumbing can contain lead, especially if it was installed before 1930. Some water pipes are actually made of lead. Brass fixtures may also contain lead.
But even in new homes, there’s still a great risk of lead exposure. Plumbers still use lead solder to join copper pipes which exposes water directly to lead. The greatest risk is in homes that are five years or newer. After this time, mineral deposits build up in the pipes, which insulate the water from the solder’s lead.
You should assume that any home that is less than five years old will have lead-contaminated water, according to the EPA.
Homes with a private water source (e.g. a well) may also be contaminated by lead in the well seal or pump components.
Contact your local health department or water utility to ask about having your home’s water tested for lead.
Use cold water for drinking and cooking, as hot water is more likely to contain higher lead levels. You may also want to invest in a filter that has been proven to remove lead from the water.
4. Keep Kids Away from Peeling Paint
As a general rule of thumb, you want to keep your kids away from old porches, old windows and areas with peeling paint if your home has lead.
If it’s inside of the home, cover the area with contact paper or duct tape until you can have it safely removed.
If you’re renting your home, let your landlord know about peeling paint. Landlords are legally required to fix lead problems found on their property.
5. Clean Your Home Regularly
Keeping your home clean can go a long way in preventing or minimizing lead exposure. Use a damp mop or sponge to wipe down surfaces and floors. Taking shoes off at the door can also keep you from tracking in lead-contaminated dirt.