Lead is a toxic substance still found in household objects, including paint, toys, and even candy. Lead tastes sweet, which can lead to children chewing or eating these products. In part one of this series, we will discuss lead-based paint, the most common substance containing lead in the United States.

Lead-based paint (LBP) is any paint that contains greater than 0.06% lead by weight of the dried product. LBP was commonly used on houses and other buildings prior to 1960, and was in use until it was banned in 1977. As paint degrades, it can flake into small chips or dust that fall onto surfaces like window sills or floors.

Children are particularly susceptible to touching this dust and then putting their hands in their mouths and ingesting the lead. The health problems that result from lead ingestion range from digestive issues and decreased muscle and bone growth, to brain and nervous system damage, and even death. If you suspect lead exposure, visit a doctor and request a blood lead level test.

To prevent exposure to LBP, immediately clean up any visible paint chips. Wipe down surfaces such as floors, window sills, and window frames weekly. Wash children’s hands often. Eat a diet low in fat and high in iron and calcium to prevent absorption of lead into the body.

Testing for LBP can be completed in a few hours, by an EPA certified inspector. Painting over suspected surfaces is not a permanent solution. Never sand or disturb paint from prior to 1978 without testing it for lead, because you could expose yourself or others on accident.