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There are nearly 15,900 homes here in Boise Idaho that were given the “Completely leaded until proven otherwise” stigma by the EPA RRP rule in April, 2010. Other than becoming older, these homes are not any different than they ever were. It dawned on me that I live in a leaded home, and that there hasn’t been much discussion about how to live safely in a leaded home.
Here are some little known facts that every homeowner of a pre-1978 home should know.
First off, lead is a mined mineral, that unlike other minerals which are vital to our bodies, has no beneficial properties to living things. Lead was not only used in paint, it was added to gasoline for years and although outlawed in automotive fuel is still used in aviation and in some developing countries. It also ended up in a type of insulation that is no longer available called Vermiculite, which is in lots of attics. It was a common additive to paint and colorings in this country for years until outlawed. Sadly it is still mostly unregulated in third world countries.
During developmental stages of life, the body sees lead as just another mineral building block like calcium or iron. In a pinch, it will use lead instead to try and construct a neurological system. The only problem is that it doesn’t work.
Depending upon the stage of growth in the brain when the lead is introduced, we see failures or disabilities develop in that area. This is why lead is especially bad for pregnant women, children under the age of 6years old, and pets, who are incidentally three times more susceptible to the poison.
Lead based paint was used because of it’s ability to last a long time, It had excellent UV protective properties and discouraged mold growth. The down side is that it is failing now and it does so in several ways.
Leaded paint peels when the primer lets go or the wood shrinks beneath it. It also fails when there are problems like leaks or when moisture gets into the wood and releases the paint. Lead paint also dries out and chalks releasing particles down to the nearest horizontal surface.
A neurological system built with lead doesn’t work correctly. Many of the symptoms may be subtle, others very obvious. One of the most damning is the potential loss of life long intelligence, IE lower than potential IQ points. Unfortunately the links to medical and developmental maladies are not clearly linked, but there is suspicion of links to ADD, autism, and still birth.
Lead gets into the system by inhaling or ingesting it.
Protection against ingested lead comes from:
- Keeping horizontal surfaces clean.
- Use a HEPA vacuum in your home, it captures the dust.
- Making sure that developing bodies have a well rounded diet of foods that are rich in calcium and iron. (This is why malnourished children are more susceptible to lead poisoning.)
- Using lead safe work practices whenever disturbing lead based paint
- Not allowing mouthing of painted surfaces
- Stabilizing lead painted surfaces with latex paint
- Removing leaded components or covering them (In the case of siding)
- Being careful in the Drip Line of the home.
- Not using leaded pottery to cook in.
- Washing vegetables prior to eating.
- Avoiding contaminated foods and candies (from 2nd and 3rd world countries).
I had the fortune to speak with the remodeler who poisoned his own children during a project he did on his own home. He was ashamed of what had happened. Although ignorant at the time, he is a strong advocate of Lead Safe Work Practices.
For adult exposure the symptoms are more subtle; cold and flu like symptoms externally, which are hard to pin to lead exposure, but the laundry list of problems includes sexual inability and hypertension, along with memory loss and debilitating neurological issues.
Another frequently asked question is about gardening around older homes, here is a link to a great article on the issue from Oregon.
As a Remodeling Contractor in Boise Idaho, Levco Builders cares a lot about the health and safety of our clients our employees, everyone’s families and pets as well as our environment. Levco Builders is also a Lead Safe Firm registered with the EPA, we have educated ourselves and are fluent in the ins and outs of the RRP rule.