A lot of warnings about lead exposure concentrates on children, because their developing brains and nervous systems are sensitive to the substance. However, it has been discovered that lead exposure is equally responsible for deaths among adults. Researchers in U.S. estimated that lead exposure is responsible for 412,000 adult deaths every year.
This is as a result of lead increasing the risk of stroke, high blood pressure, and ischemic heart disease. The new study was published this month in The Lancet Public Health. There is no safe blood lead level in children, and health effects from lead exposure have been seen in adults even at low levels.
So the best way to reduce your risk is to limit your exposure to lead. Here are five ways to protect your health and that of your family.
Don’t track lead into your home
Lead occurs naturally in soils, in high concentrations. However soil can also become contaminated from exterior lead-based paint on buildings and playgrounds. Also, soil can be contaminated in industrial sites by leaded gasoline.
You may have to leave your shoes at the door to avoid introducing lead into your house, and wash your hands after you come inside.
Don’t allow children to play in bare soil when outside. You can also cover bare soil with mulch, wood chips, or grass, or provide a sandbox for children to play in.
Fix peeling and chipped paint
One of major sources of lead for families is lead-based paint in homes and apartment buildings built before 1978. This material may be buried under layers of newer paint.
If the paint is in good condition, it’s usually not a problem. Chipped, peeling, or cracked lead paint, though, is an exposure. To keep paint from deteriorating even more, cover it with duct tape or contact paper.
In addition, lead dust can form through friction on the paint, such as along window sills, door frames, stairs, and railings. Small amounts of lead dust can be a hazard.
Children can swallow paint chips or ingest lead dust when they put their hands, toys, or other objects in their mouth. Adults can also eat lead dust that collects on plates, utensils, or food.
If you live in an older house or apartment with lead-based paint or you are not certain of what kind of paint is there, you can take steps to reduce ingestion of lead dust:
- Wash your children’s hands and your own before meals and before bedtime.
- Use soap and water to regularly wash toys and household objects that your children use or play with.
- Clean up dust in your home regularly by using damp paper towels to clean the window sills and wells. If using a vacuum cleaner, choose one with a HEPA filter.
- To minimize lead exposure, children and pregnant women shouldn’t be around during renovation of a pre-1978 house.
Keep lead out of your water
Lead can leach into drinking water from lead-contaminated faucets, pipes and solder.
Some local water systems contain lead. But lead in your drinking water is more likely to come from household plumbing, especially in homes built before 1986.
Flush the tap for at least one minute before using water for drinking or cooking to avoid exposure. To reduce waste of water, you can save it for cleaning or for watering plants.
Always use cold water for cooking, drinking, and making baby formula. Hot water from the faucet dissolves more lead from the pipes.
Eat healthy foods
Avoid use containers made from lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery because it can contaminate food. Old porcelain bathtubs can also be a dangerous because when the glaze starts coming off, the lead that was in the glaze can get in the bath water. Children can get exposed when they drink the water during a bath or they put their bath toys in their mouth.
Homegrown vegetables can become a threat if you grow them in soil with high amounts of lead. Eating healthy food can help keep lead from being stored in a child’s body. This is only a temporary way of protecting your child and doesn’t replace reducing your child’s lead exposure. These foods include:
- Calcium-rich foods:leafy vegetables, cheese, milk, yogurt, and tofu
- Iron-rich foods:beans, lean meat, fortified cereals, and peanut butter
- Foods high in vitamin C:green peppers, oranges, grapefruits, and tomatoes
If you’re concerned about your lead exposure or your children’s, talk to you doctor or other health professional.