Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Facts About Lead Paint; Judging the "Lead Free is Best For Me" Contest in Newark, N.J., I Educate Myself About This Invisible Problem

Yesterday, I was honored to judge a poster contest for Newark, New Jersey Public High Schools sponsored by Benjamin Moore Paints. The theme was "Lead Free is Best For Me" and the contest was intended to create an awareness that Newark had the highest incidents of lead paint in homes in the state of New Jersey. The students were invited to illustrate the theme and write a mini-essay interpreting the art. There are some pretty hefty prizes to be awarded.

This is the first year the contest was held and the entries were excellent, not only in the execution but also in the written explanation. The finalists have been chosen but because they won't be announced until later in June, I will not show any of the entries here.

Lead paint in homes has devastating effects on residents who many times are unaware that the paint in their homes or apartments contains the element. It is especially harmful to children and for this reason, Benjamin Moore Paint Company teamed up with the Newark Schools to get the message out. All Benjamin Moore Paints are lead free!

Here are some facts and reasons why lead paint is harmful and some suggestions on how to detect and correct the problem if you think you have it.

Lead Paint Facts
  • Lead Paint was banned in U.S. residential paint in 1978. 
  • It was banned in France and many other countries prior to 1920.
  • Three-quarters of the nation's housing contains lead paint. 
  • Lead poisoning is a serious disease. 
  • Children under six are most at risk.
  • Children from every region, race, and socioeconomic level are at risk 
  • Lead poisoning causes learning and developmental disabilities. 
  • There are usually no symptoms. 
  • Even children who appear healthy can have dangerous levels of lead in their blood. 
  • Lead poisoning is preventable. 
  • Most lead poisoning happens at home. 
  • The primary cause is tiny particles of lead dust from deteriorated paint or from painted surfaces disturbed during remodeling, repair or renovation.
  • Lead dust is invisible, so tiny in fact that it passes through most masks & filters.
  • Lead poisoning affects adults as well as kids. 
  • Lead can cause harm wherever it lands in the body.
  • In the bloodstream, lead can damage red blood cells and limit their ability to carry oxygen to the organs and tissues that need it. 
  • Most lead ends up in the bone, where it causes even more problems. Lead can interfere with the production of blood cells and the absorption of calcium that bones need to grow healthy and strong.
How To Detect Lead Paint
  • If your home was built before 1978, have your home tested for lead. The National Lead Information Center (NLIC) provide a list of EPA-certified labs near you. You may send the labs paint chips from cracks for testing. 
  • Do-it-yourself tests, available at hardware stores, can detect high levels of lead, but may not clue you into low levels or lead paint that is under many layers of paint.
  • If lead is found, but the paint is still intact (not chipping or peeling), then your family is safe from lead poisoning. However, if the lead paint is falling apart or was used on door jambs or window frames, where constant movement and friction cause a dust to escape, you will need to take action.

How to Remove Lead Paint
  • If you plan to paint or renovate areas where there is lead paint, you must have the lead paint removed by a lead abatement specialist before starting. If you sand or tear down walls that have lead paint in them, a fine lead-laden dust will disperse throughout your house! Everyone who lives in the house will be exposed to significant risk.
  • A lead abatement specialist (see below) must clean up all lead paint. Do not attempt this yourself! The U.S.Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offices or the American Industrial Hygiene Association can help you locate certified lead removal contractors in your area.
  • As a temporary measure, until lead paint is removed, damp mop frequently to clean up lead-laden dust. Wash children's toys and stuffed animals frequently.
  • If possible, your family should move out while lead-based paint is being removed by a lead abatement professional.
  • The NLIC can provide a list of local specialists who can remove or seal the lead.
The World Health Organization estimates that 15-18 million children in developing countries are suffering from permanent brain damage due to lead poisoning.

        1 comment:

        1. Hi Suze,

          Thanks so much for posting this! It's so important for families to know that lead poisoning is still a real threat, with easy steps to help prevent it.

          I’m reaching out on behalf of the Lead Poisoning Prevention campaign sponsored by the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Ad Council. Lead poisoning is America’s hidden hazard, and although it is highly preventable, it affects more than one million children in the United States today.

          As you may know, children under the age of six are most at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and their bodies are more likely to absorb lead than adults. Therefore it is vital that parents, caregivers and pregnant women know the steps they can take to help keep their children safe, and that medical professionals know how to identify and test children for possible risk of lead poisoning. I’ve included some Fast Facts about the Dangers of Lead Poisoning. Please feel free to use them in an upcoming blog post:

          • Children are at greater risk: Children ages six and younger are especially at risk because their brains and nervous systems are still developing and their bodies are more likely to absorb lead. They also often put their fingers and toys in their mouths making it more likely to ingest lead from other objects.
          • Symptoms are not easy to detect: Sometimes no symptoms occur and sometimes the symptoms are the same as those of more common illnesses, like the flu. Some early signs are persistent tiredness or hyperactivity, irritability, loss of appetite and difficulty sleeping.
          • Health effects can be serious: Even exposure to low levels of blood can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, behavior and learning problems, slowed growth, hearing problems and headaches.

          For more tips and resources, check out our new website and visit us on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. We’ve started a community based on sharing stories and spreading awareness about childhood lead poisoning and we’d love to have you join us.

          Thanks and best wishes
          Grace Wahlbrink

          For Lead Free Kids
          Environics Communications
          2000 L Street, N.W., Suite 520
          Washington, DC 20036
          ph: 202-296-2002
          e-mail: gw@ecius.net