It’s rare these days to turn on your local newscast or open up a newspaper without being confronted by details of the latest health crisis. Take lead poisoning as an example. For decades now, we’ve heard stories about families who have unknowingly consumed contaminated drinking water, employees who were exposed to high levels of toxins at their workplace or children who mistakenly ingested lead-based paint chips. How do we know what level of lead exposure—if any—is safe, and how can we lower our risk?
First, it’s important to understand that lead is a naturally occurring element in our environment. For that reason, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports almost everyone is exposed to low levels of lead—whether it’s through the air, dust or soil. When exposed at high levels, however, lead can cause long-term negative health effects by damaging our nervous systems, kidneys and reproductive systems. In children, the effects of lead exposure can be even more pronounced. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), lead can cause brain damage, muscle weakness, blood anemia, severe stomachaches and affect children’s mental and physical growth.
While lead in gasoline, paints, ceramic products, pipes and caulking has been significantly reduced, there are still steps you can take to reduce your risk of lead exposure. These include home maintenance tips such as inspecting painted surfaces to prevent deterioration, addressing home water damage swiftly, cleaning debris out of faucet aerators regularly, mopping floors weekly to remove excess dust and more. For a full list of tips, please download the EPA’s Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home and the Lead Poisoning Home Checklist.
If you think you’ve been exposed to lead, contact your contact or local health agency immediately. For more information, visit epa.gov/lead.