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Reduce risk of lead poisoning from paint
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Lead poisoning is a real threat to Mississippi children, many of whom are exposed to the potentially deadly substance in painted surfaces in their homes.
Jane Clary, health specialist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service, said high levels of lead exposure can lead to the development of colic, kidney damage, anemia, muscle weakness and brain damage, which can cause death. Lower levels of lead exposure can affect the blood, development and behavior.
Clary said exposure to lead is even more serious for children than for adults.
“Once lead enters the body, if it isn't stored in the bones, it leaves the body as waste,” Clary said. “Roughly 99 percent of the lead taken into an adult will leave in waste within a few weeks; however, only about 32 percent of the lead taken into a child's body leaves in waste.”
Clary said a child who is continuously exposed to lead can have an accumulation of lead in body tissues, especially the bones.
“Health-care workers can determine how much lead a child may have been exposed to through a blood sample and see how much lead is in the bones using a special type of X-ray of the finger,” she said.
While the best solution to the lead poisoning problem is prevention, a good diet with sufficient nutritients -- especially calcium and iron -- helps lower the amount of ingested lead that passes to the bloodstream. This also may help lessen the toxic effects of lead, Clary said.
Adults with long-term exposure to lead may have decreased performance on tests that measure nervous system function; weakness in fingers, wrists or ankles; increased blood pressure; and anemia, particularly with middle-aged or older adults.
Bobbie Shaffett, Extension family resource management specialist, said lead is found in many places in the environment, especially in older homes. It is a metal that occurs in the environment as a result of industrialization.
“Children can be exposed to lead from lead-based paint, which was in paint made before 1978, from tap water delivered in lead pipes, from batteries and even imported vinyl mini-blinds made before 1997,” Shaffett said.
Other possible sources of lead in homes include some keys, electrical cords, garden hoses, some imported canned foods and metal jewelry.
“In an older house or apartment with old paint, keep children from eating paint chips or dust,” Shaffett said. “Clean your child's hands with soap and water or baby wipes if they have played in areas that may be contaminated.”
People, especially children, often are exposed to lead in areas that are being remodeled or are old and awaiting renovation. Adult workers who do not protect themselves from lead exposure may be at risk and may endanger their families by spreading lead dust to their homes and vehicles.
People who remodel older homes that may contain lead-based paint can take several steps to avoid spreading lead contaminants. Wet-mop or hose down porches and floors at least twice a week. Use a wet-dry vacuum in the wet mode to pull up moisture after pouring cleaner onto a floor or other hard surface to remove more lead dust than possible with wet-mopping alone.
Pour cleaning water down the toilet when the cleaning is done. Discard dirty carpets, rugs and upholstery that have been in a room that contains lead-based paint. Wear a mask so dust is not inhaled. Cover wood floors with vinyl or coat them with polyurethane or enamel paint.
Numerous other safety steps are recommended for cleaning an area that has lead-based paint or other lead substances. Call the Environmental Protection Agency at 1-800-424-LEAD for the brochure “Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home,” or use the online resource at http://www.epa.gov/lead.
More information is available through the MSU Extension Service. A one-hour Quick Bites workshop, “Don't Spread Lead,” will be held April 10 at noon. Contact the local MSU Extension Service office to make arrangements to attend this statewide video conference.
An intensive workshop for professionals, do-it-yourselfers and Extension staff will be offered May 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at select video conference sites statewide. To register for the all-day workshop or to learn conference locations, contact Shaffett at (662) 325-3080 or firstname.lastname@example.org.