In 1991, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services called lead the “number one environmental threat to the health of children in the United States.” Lead exposure is thought to be one of the most common preventable poisonings of childhood. However, 6 percent of all children ages 1 to 2 years have blood levels in the toxic range, according to data from the Centers of Disease Control (CDC). Lead poisoning is serious for children, but also for adults.

Sources of Lead Exposure
Humans can be exposed to lead through a variety of means including air, drinking water, food, soil, paint and dust. Before people realized the severity of lead exposure, lead was commonly used in paint, gasoline, water pipes and other products. Today, one of the main sources of lead exposure in the United States is through old lead-based paint. As old lead-based paint ages, it can begin to peel, chip or chalk from deteriorated surfaces, which can expose individuals to lead. If there are paint chips on the ground and someone walks on them, lead dust can be created, which is also harmful.

Removal of Lead-based Paint
It is crucial that lead-based paint that is not in good condition be removed or covered. Only a professional who is trained in removing lead-based paint should be used. If lead-based paint is not properly removed, it can cause severe lead poisoning. The paint removal methods, such as sandpaper, scrapers, chemicals, sandblasters and torches, can create lead fumes or dust. That is why a professional should take on the task of the removal because these individuals have specialized training. Lead-based paint can also be covered with a sealant, but this is not a long term solution.

Health Affects of Lead Exposure
Lead exposure can cause mental retardation, decreased attention span and impaired physical development. Even low levels of lead can result in problems with fetal development. Children exposed to lead can have issues with development and behavior. A child who has been exposed to a small amount of lead may show signs of inattention, hyperactivity and irritability. For children who have been exposed to lead for long periods of time, there may be problems with learning, reading and hearing. Some children may experience delayed growth and if the lead exposure is very high, they may have permanent brain damage.

Adults who have been exposed to lead may also show signs of irritability, but the exposure may also result in poor muscle coordination and nerve damage. Lead poisoning can also affect reproduction and increase blood pressure. A person exposed to lead should be treated immediately. Early identification of lead exposure can reduce the risk of permanent damage. Treatment includes getting rid of the source of the lead and usually medication to remove lead from the body.

Property owners and businesses that expose tenants and/or consumers to lead can be held liable. The injured party may be able to receive compensation for medical expenses and recover other monetary damages. To determine the source of the lead exposure, it is important to consult with a knowledgeable lead exposure attorney. Contact David M. Benenfeld if you or a family member has been exposed to lead.