Prolonged exposure to lead-based paints and other products carries the risk of many adverse health effects. Learning about the dangers of lead exposure and how to avoid them can help everyone from homeowners to landlords avoid hazardous situations.
Expected Duration of Lead in the Body
It may take several weeks, months, or years for lead to leave the body, even after there is no further exposure.
Lead Exposure Prevention
To prevent lead poisoning, avoid or minimize exposure to lead.
Lead Exposure Prevention for Families
- Careful and frequent cleaning has been shown to reduce exposure to lead substantially.
- Use a mop or sponge with warm water and an all-purpose cleaner to regularly clean floors and other surfaces.
- Frequently wash a child’s hands, toys, and pacifiers with soap and water.
- If you have lead paint in your home, do not try to remove it or paint over it yourself. Improper removal of lead paint can make contamination worse by sending lead-containing dust into the air.
- Hire a professional trained in lead abatement techniques.
- If you have lead pipes or lead solder in your plumbing, or if you have an older house and are not sure about the pipes, call your local health department or water supplier for information on getting your water tested.
- Meanwhile, use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula.
- Run the water for 15 seconds to 30 seconds before drinking it, especially if you have not used the water from that faucet for a few hours.
Lead Exposure Prevention for Professionals
- Insist that your employer complies with all federal and state laws to protect workers and to monitor their health.
- Follow all recommended measures (masks, protective clothing, etc.) to protect yourself.
- Before coming home, shower and change your clothes.
- Launder your work clothes separately from those of the rest of the family or from clothes you do not wear for work.
- For more information on sources of lead poisoning and ways to prevent them, visit the Lead website at the Centers for Disease Control, www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead.
Lead Poisoning & Exposure Treatment
For all cases of lead exposure, the most important step is to remove the source of lead. When this is done, treatment is not usually necessary if the blood lead level is less than 20 mcg/dL. However, repeat blood tests to be sure the amount of lead in the bloodstream stays low.
Higher levels of lead in the bloodstream may need to be treated. Treatment consists of taking a drug that binds to the lead and helps the body to remove it. This process is called chelation therapy.
Doctors decide whether to use chelation therapy on a case-by-case basis. Very high levels of lead (70 mcg/dL or greater) sometimes require hospitalization to begin therapy.
After treatment and/or removal of the environmental lead source, the doctor normally will do more blood lead tests. Blood tests help track blood levels until they are no longer too high.
Besides recommending a nutritious diet, the doctor also may recommend iron or calcium supplements. If a child with lead poisoning has iron deficiency anemia, it is very important that the anemia be treated. Anemia puts the child at higher risk.
When To Call a Professional for Lead Exposure
If you are the parent or guardian of a child under age 6, make sure he or she visits a health professional regularly if you live in pre-1978 housing. Discuss possible risks of lead poisoning with the doctor have your child get tested if necessary.
Illinois Environmental Contractors Association Resources
For more information on finding a local contractor to assist with the lead abatement process, check the resources below: