Skip to content

Is There Lead in Your Home? How Testing Can Prevent Exposure

Lead Exposure is a Major Public Health Concern
Exposure to lead is extremely dangerous, especially for young children. Lead is a toxic metal that was used for decades in products found in most homes until the late 1970s, such as paint, gasoline, and plumbing pipes. Even though it is no longer used in these products, lead still poses a major public health concern today.

Children are particularly susceptible to the toxic effects of lead. Their growing bodies absorb lead more readily than adults, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can cause permanent learning disabilities, decreased IQ, attention deficits, hyperactivity, impaired growth, and hearing loss, among other issues. The effects usually cannot be reversed.

Sources of Lead Exposure in the Home
Lead-based paint is the most common source of exposure in homes, especially in those built before 1978. As paint ages, it can chip, create dust, or make the soil outside contaminated. Children ingest lead when they put paint chips or exterior soil and dust in their mouths, or touch surfaces covered with lead dust and then put their fingers in their mouths.

Other sources in a home include lead pipes, solder, or plumbing fixtures. Drinking water can become contaminated as it passes through these lead sources. Soil surrounding a home can also contain lead. Additional sources are lead-glazed pottery and lead crystal.

Health Impacts Depend on Exposure Level
The CDC states that there is no safe level of lead exposure. Even low levels in the blood can impact a child’s development and health. The more lead in a person’s body, the greater the harmful health effects. At very high lead levels, children can experience anemia, seizures, coma and even death.

This is why testing homes and children is so important – to identify any sources of lead and stop continued exposure. The CDC recommends testing all children for lead with a simple blood test at ages 1 and 2. Home inspections or tests should identify any risks, such as peeling paint, contaminated dust or soil, or lead in water.

Testing Provides Peace of Mind
Getting a lead inspection provides peace of mind and allows homeowners to identify any risks in the home. If risks are found, the sources can be removed or contained through remediation. This prevents exposure from continuing and causing further damage.

Early identification through blood lead level screening also allows steps to be taken to reduce a child’s exposure if their levels are elevated. Their health can be monitored to watch for any problems. Children with very high lead levels may need medical treatment to help lower their blood lead levels.

Take Steps to Reduce Lead Exposure
Here are some important steps all families can take to reduce exposures:

Test your home for lead – consider paint, dust, water and soil. A certified professional should conduct the inspection and testing.
Test children annually up to age 6, or 3 years old in areas with high lead exposure risks. Talk to your doctor about the simple blood test.
Frequently wash children’s hands and toys to reduce contamination.
Clean floors, window sills, and other surfaces weekly. Use damp mopping and wiping to avoid spreading dust.
Take precautions when remodeling old homes to avoid creating dust.
Filter water and consider testing if lead plumbing fixtures are suspected.
Cover bare soil with grass, plants, bark, or gravel. Plant bushes near the home to avoid soil tracking indoors.
Leave shoes at the door to avoid tracking in soil.
Use lead-safe work practices for any renovations or repairs.

Lead exposure can be prevented through testing, identification of sources, and simple steps to reduce exposure risks. Using lead swabs like these will help you to protect your family and home. Protecting children from this toxic metal should be a priority for all families. Testing your home and knowing your child’s blood lead level provides vital information to stop further lead exposure and allow for early intervention if needed. Taking preventive measures also reduces the public health impacts of lead.