Lead is a seriously toxic substance that can potentially cause irreversible health damage on both humans and animals. Lead was widely used in both the interior and exterior of homes before 1978, when its harmful effects on humans were discovered – causing the federal government of the US to ban its use in homes.
Lead was mostly used in plumbing pipe, paint, furniture finishes, pottery glaze, and gasoline. It was also highly used in finishing steel or metal used in construction due to its capacity to add durability and reduce the risks of corrosion.
Today, the HUD or US Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates that about 38 million homes in the US still have paint that contains lead. Older homes, especially those that were built before 1978, pose great health risks for its occupants.
Organic and Inorganic Lead
There are two types of lead: organic and inorganic. Organic lead is mostly found in gasoline and enters the body through skin contact. Inorganic lead, on the other hand, is the more common type and found mainly in paint. It enters the body through inhalation or ingestion.
Inorganic lead is extremely toxic to humans – both children and adults, with the former being the most susceptible.
The Health Effects of Lead Exposure on Children
Homes with paint that are chipping place its occupants at high risk for lead exposure and eventually lead poisoning.
While lead paint per se is not poisonous when applied on walls, its dust and particles can be inhaled or ingested. When lead enters the bloodstream, it causes a long list of health consequences.
Its effects on children include:
- learning disabilities
- stunted growth and development
- brain damage
- hearing problems
- chronic headaches
- high blood pressure
- behavior problems
- nervous system problems
- reduced IQ
- kidney damage
- attention deficit disorders
Children are also more prone to ingest lead dust or particles from chipping paint – making lead exposure extremely high.
The Health Effects of Lead Exposure on Adults
While children are more at risk of lead poisoning, adults require more exposure to lead to suffer from its health consequences. Adults are usually exposed in relation to their work, such as those who are in the field of construction, house painting, repair, and the like.
Among the consequences of adult lead exposure are:
- high blood pressure
- digestion problems
- nerve disorders
- muscle and joint pains
- memory and concentration problems
- reproductive problems for both men and women
- And if a woman is pregnant, it could lead to fetal abnormalities and other ill effects.
For both children and adults, lead poisoning directly affects three primary areas: the blood, soft tissue such as the kidneys, bone marrow, the brain, and liver, and the bones and teeth.
The rates of exposure and the level of damage in the body differs and its consequences can either be acute or chronic. Both minimal and long-term exposure to lead can both lead to negative health effects.
Getting Rid of Lead Paint Properly
Lead paint that’s intact on your walls or ceilings can easily be covered with wallpaper and other material such as vinyl. However, if you start to see some chipping, then you are at risk for exposure. When this occurs, never attempt to remove lead paint on your own – you are exposing yourself to an extremely toxic substance and this should only be done by a seasoned professional.
When renovating or remodeling your home by yourself, make sure your old paint does not contain lead. Otherwise, your children should not be present, or you should hire the services of a professional and you should stay out of your house until the project is done.