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An estimated 75 percent of privately-owned residences in the United States built before 1978 contain dangerous lead-based paint. To reduce the threat of lead poisoning, Congress outlawed the manufacture and use of lead-based paint. Unfortunately, the law does not apply to the layers of lead-based paint that were used before the law went into effect. Especially when renovating an older home, the possibility of lead poisoning should he considered.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead is a highly toxic metal that is virtually indestructible. Lead poisoning is a serious illness caused by swallowing or breathing too much lead.

What are the most common ways to get lead poisoning?

The most common and well-known source of dangerous lead deposits is lead-based paint. It can be found nor only in paint chips, but also the dust and dirt where lead-based paints have flaked off or been disturbed during renovations.

What are the common physical symptoms and effects of lead poisoning?

Early symptoms may include headaches, stomachaches, tiredness, mood changes, digestive problems, poor appetite, and nausea. The long-term effects depend on the length and level of exposure. Low levels can cause developmental, learning, and behavioral problems, including impaired growth, loss of intellect, hyperactive behavior, ADD, and ADHD. High levels of lead poisoning can cause brain damage, mental retardation, anemia, liver damage, kidney damage, and hearing loss. Very high levels of lead poisoning can cause brain swelling, convulsions, coma, and even death.

Who are the most common victims of lead poisoning?

Infants and young children are most at risk since they are more likely to eat paint chips, be on the floor where lead-based paint chips, dirt, or dust can be found, and place contaminated objects into their mouth. They are also more vulnerable because the lead is more easily absorbed into their growing bodies. A child's brain, still in its developmental stages, is much more susceptible to injury from toxic substances.

How can I protect my family from lead poisoning?

Inspect your surroundings and ask questions. For example, if you are about to purchase a home built before 1978, the seller is required by law to disclose the existence of lead-based paint. If you are renting, ask the landlord for written assurance that no lead- based paint exists. If you intend to renovate a structure built before 1978, you may want to hire an inspector to check for lead, If you find your home or business contains lead paint, do not try to remove it yourself; hire a qualified contractor.

How do I find out if I have lead poisoning?

Get a blood-lead test. A lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or above is cause for concern.

Legally, what should I do if I believe I have lead poisoning?

These laws are complicated, and you should be aware that the law could change, Consult a qualified attorney immediately to ensure that any claims you or Your family might have do not expire.

Where can I go for more information about lead poisoning?

National Lead Information Center at http://www.epa.gov/oppt/lead/pubs/nlic.htm.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/guide/1997/docs/factlead.htm

Alliance for Healthy Homes at www.afhh.org.

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