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Wipe Out Lead Poisoning

Release Date: 10/19/2009
Contact Information: Mary Simms, 415-947-4270, simms.mary@epa.gov

October 18 -24 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

(San Francisco, Calif. -- 10/19/2009) National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, October 18-24, is set aside to educate parents and children about the dangers of lead exposure, especially lead-based paint hazards in housing. 

     Lead poisoning is the number one environmental hazard threatening children in the United States -- affecting more than 300,000 children who are less than six years old. Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born, and children who appear healthy can also have high levels of lead in their bodies.  The behaviors and rapid growth of children less than six years old make them more likely to be harmed by lead.

     The household use of lead-based paint was banned after 1978.  Millions of homes in EPA’s Region Pacific Southwest region, which includes Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, and the Pacific Territories, still contain hazardous amounts of lead in layers of old paint.  Such paint can poison children when removed or disturbed by renovations.  Children are exposed to lead by eating paint chips or by ingesting lead-contaminated house dust or soil through hand-to-mouth contact.

Health Effects:

•           Lead is highly toxic and affects many systems of the body.

•           Lead can damage a child’s kidneys and central nervous system.

•           Low levels in children’s blood are associated with decreased intelligence, behavior problems, reduced physical stature and growth, and impaired hearing.

•           At high levels, lead can cause coma, convulsions, and death.

     There are many ways to reduce lead hazards in the home, such as regularly cleaning floors, windows sills and other surfaces, washing children’s hands and toys often, and wiping off shoes before entering the house.  In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard, but removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.

     Beginning in April 2010, contractors performing projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.  In Region 9, approximately 180,000 renovation contractors will need to be trained in lead-safe work practices, and they will be able to choose from 27 different renovation courses in English or Spanish.   The EPA is performing education outreach and will be conducting inspections in 2010 to ensure that contractors comply with the new requirements.

     Although lead paint and contaminated dust and soil are the principal source of childhood lead poisoning, lead exposure may also come from folk remedies, pottery, imported candy, and cosmetics. Lead in the air from mining and smelting sites, and in water from plumbing materials containing lead can also cause lead poisoning. In recent years, lead in consumer goods, especially imported toys, has been a cause for concern.

Information on the Lead Program in Region 9 is available at:

         U.S. EPA Region 9 at http://www.epa.gov/region09/lead/

For more information about preventing childhood lead poisoning, visit:

The National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-5323 or http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/nlic.htm

U.S. EPA at http://www.epa.gov/lead/; or

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead;

U.S, Department of Housing and Urban Development at http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead.

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