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Consumer Advice

May 3, 2004

Lead Astray: Consumer Advice

Here are some ways to minimize lead poisoning hazards in the home:

Regularly Dust Areas Where Children Play. Mop floors and wipe window ledges and chewable surfaces such as cribs with a solution of powdered automatic dishwasher detergent in warm water. Dishwasher detergent is recommended due to its high phosphate content, most multi-purpose cleaners will not remove lead in ordinary dust. Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly. Make sure that children wash their hands before meals and before going to sleep.

Avoid Burning Painted Wood. Most homes built before 1960 contain heavily leaded paint, many homes built as recently as 1978 also contain lead paint. This paint could be on window frames, walls, the outside of homes, or other surfaces. Do not burn painted wood since it may contain lead.

Do Not Sand or Burn-off Paint That May Contain Lead. Lead paint in good condition is usually not a problem except in places where painted surfaces rub against each other and create dust (for example, opening a window). Sanding or burning off paint that may contain lead creates lead-contaminated dust and exposes you or your children to high doses of lead.

Hire A Professional to Remove Lead Paint. Scraping or sanding lead paint generates large amounts of lead dust,which causes lead poisoning. Consult your state health or housing department or your local lead poisoning prevention branch for suggestions on which private laboratories or public agencies may be able to help test your home for lead in paint. Hire a person with special training for correcting lead paint problems to remove lead-based paint. Vacate the building until all work and clean-up is complete. This is particularly important for children and pregnant women.

Avoid Bringing Lead Dust into The Home. If you work in construction, demolition, painting, with batteries, in a radiator repair shop or lead factory, or your hobby involves lead, you may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your hands or clothes. You may also be tracking in lead from soil around your home. Soil very close to homes may be contaminated from lead paint on the outside of the building or from lead-contaminated soil in which lead has settled from fumes from cars and trucks that used leaded gas. Use door mats to wipe your feet before entering the home. If you work with lead in your job or a hobby, change your clothes before you go home and wash these clothes separately. Encourage your children to play in sand and grassy areas instead of dirt, which sticks to fingers and toys. Try to keep your children from eating dirt, and make sure they wash their hands when they come inside.

Learn About Lead in Drinking Water. Most well and city water does not usually contain lead. Water usually picks up lead inside the home from household plumbing that is made with lead materials. The only way to know if there is lead in drinking water is to have it tested. Contact the local health department or the water supplier to find out how to get the water tested.

Eat right. A child who gets enough iron and calcium will absorb less lead. Foods rich in iron include eggs, red meats, and beans. Dairy products are high in calcium. Do not store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery. If you reuse old plastic bags to store or carry food, keep the printing on the outside of the bag.

For More Information, Visit the Following Link: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) (2004). Sources of Indoor Air Pollution: Lead. Accessed April 2004 at