Lead: An Introduction

by / Wednesday, 11 June 2014 / Published in Healthy Building Inspections & Testing
Lead Testing for Dust

Lead is a natural elemental metal that has many uses and has been used through antiquity. Though it has many uses it is extremely toxic to humans and as such, has been regulated by government agencies throughout the world. Awareness is growing, but people are still exposed to lead. Lead: an introduction to help you protect yourself and your family.

Lead Absorption

While lead is not easily absorbed by the skin, lead absorption by inhalation of fumes or by ingestion of lead contaminated materials is dangerous to everyone. Generally, lead poisoning occurs slowly, as slow accumulation of lead builds up in bone and tissue after repeated exposure. It is, however, particularly toxic to children and pregnant women. Adults absorb only 10% to 15% of the lead ingested while children and pregnant women absorb roughly 50%. Lead has a slow half-life in the human body, as lead that has accumulated in the bones and teeth only diminishes by half over a period of 30 years.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms

Peeling paint sample for Lead living room wall

Peeling paint sample for Lead living room wall

Lead affects practically all systems within the human body. People afflicted with lead poisoning show symptoms of: Headaches, Irritability, Abdominal Pain, Vomiting, Anemia, Weight Loss, Poor Attention Span, Noticeable Learning Difficulty, Slowed Speech Development, Hyperactivity and Impotence.

The effects of lead poisoning include: Reading/Learning Disabilities, Speech/Language Handicaps, Lowered IQ, Neurological Deficits, Behavior Problems, Mental Retardation, Kidney Disease, Heart Disease, Stroke, Weakness in the extremities, Peripheral Nerve Damage, High Blood Pressure, Convulsions, Coma and Death.

Children and Lead Exposure

Children may risk higher exposures since they are more likely to get lead dust on their hands while crawling and then put their fingers or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths. Blood lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter can impair mental and physical development in children. As such, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have established 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood as the reference level to identity children with blood lead levels much higher than most children’s levels.

As such, childhood blood tests are, by law, reported to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH). Should a child be found to have levels of lead in the blood that are considered unhealthy, the CDPH can legally force a building owner to perform a lead risk assessment and abatement on a building to determine that has Lead Materials, Lead Based Paint (LBP), and/or Lead-contaminated Dust or Soil in the vicinity.

Lead Assessment & Abatement

It behooves the concerned building owner to take proper renovation or proper abatement steps before it is forced upon them by the CDPH. Not only for the health of the occupants but for legal and financial reasons as well.

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