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Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Lead also can be emitted into the air from motor vehicles and industrial sources, and can enter drinking water from plumbing materials.

Lead may affect human health in several ways, including behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures and death. Children age six and younger are most at risk due to their smaller size and their propensity to play on floors and on the ground outside.

The primary sources of lead are old paint, dust, some water, some canned goods, some ceramic tableware, and effluent from factories that smelt or recycle lead. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and subsequent Environmental Protection Agency regulations have reduced lead in the atmosphere by 90 percent. The single most important action was the removal of lead from gasoline.

The Lead Paint Poisoning Prevention Act of 1971 banned the use of lead in household paint, but many houses still have lead in interior paint. Almost all houses built before 1960, for example, have leaded paint, as do approximately 20 percent of houses built between 1960 and 1978. Paint, therefore, stands out as the main source of potential lead exposure for children.

What can you do?

If your home was built before 1978:

  • Take extra precautions to avoid creating lead dust when renovating or maintaining your home. See the Renovation section and links to manuals here.
  • Test for lead hazards by a lead professional. Have the soil tested, too.
  • Make sure that painted surfaces are smooth and intact, not chipped, cracked, bubbled, or loose, especially surfaces that rub together such as operable windows and doors,or interior trim that is in a high-traffic area.
  • Pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel and discard them in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel.
  • Wipe down flat surfaces like window sills with a damp paper towel and throw the towel away. Mop smooth floors with a damp mop weekly to control dust.
  • Take off shoes when entering the house.
  • Vacuum carpets and upholstery to remove dust.
  • If possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a higher-efficiency collection bag.
  • Stay informed about lead-related product recalls and alerts at http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/leadpaint/

Safety for your child:

  • The United States Environmental Protection Agency suggests that testing a child's blood lead at ages 1 and 2. Children from 3 to 6 years of age should have their blood tested if they have not been tested before and if:
    1. They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1950,
    2. They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978 with on-going or recent renovations or remodeling
    3. They have a sibling or playmate who has or had lead poisoning
  • Frequently wash your child's hands and toys to reduce contact with dust.
  • Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking.
  • Avoid using home remedies such as arzacon, greta, pay-loo-ah, or litargirio and cosmetics such as kohl or alkohl that contain lead.
  • Be cautious when providing imported candies to children. Certain candies and candy jam products from Mexico and other countries may contain high levels of lead in the wrapper or stick.
  • Some tableware, particularly folk terra cotta plates and bowls from Latin America, may contain high levels of lead that can leach into food.

More information on how to protect your household from lead-based paint is available in the Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home brochure produced by the EPA and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development and at http://www.epa.gov/lead/.

A lot of good information on the State of Oregon's website: http://www.oregon.gov/DHS/ph/leadpaint/

Painting, renovation, and repair of pre-1978 residential buildings and child-care facilities:

All homeowners and property owners need to be aware of proper painting, repair and renovation practices for homes built before 1978.

Effective December 2008, the EPA requires that contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint provide the Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools pamphlet to owners and residents of residential structures constructed prior to 1978. The regulations also require contractors to provide the pamphlet to owners of child-care facilities and parents or guardians of children under age six who attend facilities built prior to 1978.

The second to the last page of the pamphlet (Current Sample Pre-Renovation Form) must be completed and retained by the contractor for record keeping (a minimum of three years) prior to the start of any work or renovation.

Lead-safe work practices certification became mandatory in April 2010. The rule affects paid renovators who work in pre-1978 housing and child-occupied facilities, including:

  • Renovation contractors,
  • Maintenance workers in multi-family housing, and
  • Painters and other specialty trades.

Under the rule, child-occupied facilities are defined as residential, public or commercial buildings where children under age six are present on a regular basis. The requirements apply to renovation, repair or painting activities. The rule does not apply to minor maintenance or repair activities where less than six square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed in a room or where less than 20 square feet of lead-based paint is disturbed on the exterior. Window replacement is not minor maintenance or repair.

For information concerning the proper disposal of LBP debris, contact the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) toll free: 800-452-4011.

If you have concerns that you or a household member has experienced lead poisoning, contact the Linn County Health Department at 541-967-3888 or Benton County Health Department, 541-766-6835.