Chronic poisoning due to inhalation, ingestion or skin absorbtion of lead. A hazard for both young children if they suck on lead toys, and for industrial workers. Characterized by anaemia, constipation, severe abdominal pain, and perhaps ultimately renal damage. Lesser degrees of damage are now recognised and soft water delivered through lead pipes is now seen as a hazard.

These days it seems like a day doesn’t go by when you don’t hear about a recall of products made in China, mostly toys, that contain too much lead in the paint. So far, as of this writing at least twenty four different types of toys ranging from Barbie doll accessories to Fischer-Price toys for infants have come under fire for containing too much lead.

This is probably a subject for another node but what’s up with the Chinese anyway? First it was poisoned pet food, then toothpaste, now this.

Where does it come from?

By far the most abundant source of lead is right under our very noses. It just might be the house you’re living in. See, up until 1978, lead based paint was popular and used in many office building and homes around the country. From there, as the paint deteriorated or was chipped away, some of it might have been absorbed into the soil, soaked into drinking water, or even become part of the house itself as the dust was formed. Right now the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that there are still 38 million homes across the country that sill might be coated with lead paint. On the face of it, that’s fine but as the paint chips all it takes a bit of hand to mouth contact with even the slightest amount for one’s blood levels of lead to rise.

It’s not just for kids anymore!

No, even us adults are subject to the ravages of lead poisoning but for the most part, it’s the children that bear the brunt. That’s because their brains and central nervous systems are still forming are easily contaminated.

What are the side effects?

For kids under the age of six, even a small over exposure to lead can cause severe learning disabilities, reduced IQ, ADD and other related behavioral problems, deafness, stunted growth and kidney disorders. If the dosage is high enough, mental retardation, coma and death have been known to occur.

For us adults, the symptoms aren’t quite so bad. Increases in blood pressure, low sperm count, nerve disorders, lack of concentration and muscle pain are usually symptoms that might be associated with lead poisoning.

For those of you who might be pregnant and incur lead poisoning, the chances are very good that you’ll pass the disease onto your fetus along with a host of various other health related issues.

Get the lead out…

By now, you might be asking yourself what the odds are that you’ll come into contact with lead poisoning.

For starters, if you live in a house built before 1960, it’s a pretty safe bet that lead based paint was used. From 1960 through 1978, lead paints were still used but declined thanks to the efforts of the fine folks from the Consumer Product Safety Commission. As always, if you really want to be sure, hire a pro to come and test your home and the grounds that surround it for unsuitable levels of contamination. For those of you who aren’t home owners and rent, your landlord is required by law to comply with your request for a home inspection when it comes to levels of lead.

If they determine that the levels are unsafe, you might be looking at shelling out some big bucks to have the grounds de-contaminated. If you have the time and the know how, you can do it yourself using some towels and a three tiered system consisting of buckets of soapy water, a bucket for rinsing and a bucket of clean water.

If it were up to me and push came to shove, I’d let the pro’s take a whack at it. The risks are just too high for me to trust myself and my kids future is much too important.


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