As lead-based paint has become less of an issue due to reduced use, our health and communities are still being impacted by it. Lead paint still exists in many old buildings and structures. This blog is intended to reinforce why proper lead abatement is still important today.
Health Issues Stemming From Lead Paint
Lead has no biological function in the body. It accumulates in the body and affects practically all organ systems. Lead exposure can cause chronic and debilitating health impacts in all age groups, but it is particularly harmful to young children. This is because the developing nervous system is vulnerable to the toxic effects of lead, even at levels of exposure that do not cause obvious symptoms and signs.
Lead exposure in early childhood can result in reduced school performance, intelligence quotient (IQ), attention deficit disorder, and increased behavioral problems. Lead exposure can also cause hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs. Lead poisoning is especially difficult to diagnose in adults due to misdiagnosis of fatigue or sexual dysfunction symptoms.
The absorption of large amounts of lead can cause coma, convulsions, and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning can be left with a permanent neurological injury, such as deafness and mental retardation.
Pregnant women are also vulnerable, and lead exposure is associated with reduced fetal growth, lower birth weight, preterm birth, and spontaneous abortion. Exposure in adults is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, including hypertension, coronary heart disease, and in rare cases, death.
Potential Economic Issues Due to Lead Paint
There are both direct and indirect economic costs resulting from lead exposure. These include health care costs of treating lead poisoning, social costs such as the need for special education to combat lead-induced intellectual impairment, and productivity losses because of reduced intelligence quotient (IQ).
It is imperative to use proper Lead Safe Work Practices when working on large or small scale projects in pre-1978 buildings. Failing to properly follow lead guidelines on renovations or demolitions can cause lead particles to get into the air and move great distances, and lead dust is intrinsically harder to clean up than common dust particles.
Not using proper Lead Safe Work Practices can lead to lawsuits and settlements–a cost not calculated as it is a private industry. These lawsuits can be extremely costly, so not only is using proper lead abatement good for our overall health, it can also protect contractors from financial and public relations damage, in addition to the fines imposed by USEPA or IDPH.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor, check the resources below:
- Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Members
- IECA Common Questions & Answers
- Illinois Environmental Organizations & Related Agencies