Lead

What is Lead?
When ingested, lead is a highly toxic material that can cause serious health problems. Lead occurs naturally in soils, however, the majority of lead exposure derives from man made processes and products.  There are three major sources of  lead exposure today; lead based paint, soil and surface dust, and drinking water.

Lead-Based Paint
Lead has been called  "the most common and societal devastating environmental disease of young children" by the CDC. Millions of homes across the country contain at least some lead-based paint.  Children living in homes with lead-based paint become exposed to lead by directly eating chips of paint, or chewing on surfaces painted with lead-based paint. The more common route of exposure of lead paint, however, is through ingestion of lead-bearing dust that is generated by the paint when it deteriorates, chalks, or is disturbed. The use of lead based paint has declined over the years, and is unlikely to be found in homes built after 1978, but here in Alaska, the age rule does not work very well.  Many builders on the Kenai Peninsula used marine boat paint, which contains lead, on their houses because it was in plentiful supply.  Therefore it is important to test all paint, regardless of house age because of Alaska's unique building history. 

Lead in Dust and Soil
Lead contaminated soils are a result of weathering and chipping or refinishing of lead-based paint on the exterior of the home. Approximately 16% of all homes built prior to 1980 have high concentrations of lead in the soil. House dust containing lead can come from deteriorating exterior and interior paint. Approximately 14% of all houses built prior to 1980 have lead in interior surface dust that exceeds the recommended levels. It is more likely to have excessive lead dust if the home has high levels of interior lead-based paint. Since lead dust can coat everything in a home with a fine layer, on food or on objects that you place in your mouth, lead dust can easily be ingested causing adverse health effects. 

Lead in Water
For the average 2 year old child, 20% of total lead exposure comes from water. Lead contamination of your water results primarily from the corrosion of plumbing materials. Potential sources of lead in the water supply include water service mains, lead plumbing goosenecks or pigtails, and interior household plumbing, especially where lead solder is used. Lead may also come from brass or bronze alloys used in faucets or valves. The amount of lead in a water system depends on many factors. The amount and age of lead containing materials in the system, amount of time water is in contact with these materials, and corrosiveness of the water.

Protecting your Family from Lead Hazards
-Have young children tested, even if they appear healthy.
-Wash children's hands, bottles, toys, and pacifiers.
-Clean household surfaces regularly
-Clean bottoms of shoes to avoid tracking soil into the home.
-When remodeling and renovating your home, take precautions against lead dust.
-Avoid sanding, scraping, or heating surfaces that may contain lead paint.
-Do not try to remove a known lead hazard yourself.
-Have your home tested for lead hazards

Risk Assessment of Lead
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all children under the age of six be tested for elevated levels of lead in the bloodstream. Do it yourself test kits for lead are available to the public, but their sensitivity is limited. These kinds of tests cannot distinguish between high concentrations and low concentrations of lead. Risk assessment by a qualified lead risk assessor is recommended if you suspect you are at risk for lead poisoning, or if medical tests indicate elevated levels of lead in the blood stream.

How Lead Effects Your Body
In the United States 1 in every 11 children has dangerously elevated levels of lead in the blood stream. Damage from lead increases as the level of lead in the body rises. The numbers in the graphs below represent micrograms of lead in each deciliter of blood. ( A decilter is about a cup and a half). 10 micrograms in a decilter is approximately equivalent to a marble in an Olympic sized swimming pool. *

Adult Lead Exposure

Child Lead Exposure