Yesterday, we talked about the problems of lead in the home. Today, let’s talk about simple steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to lead in the home:
Take off your shoes. One study found that simply taking off your shoes can reduce the amount of lead contaminated dirt in your home by 60%.
Invest in good quality doormats. If you don’t want to take off your shoes, a good quality doormat used to wipe shoes can go a long way to reduce the amount of lead contaminated dirt and dust tracked into the home.
Use walkways to prevent soil tracking. If you can, make sure all walkways to the house are cement, gravel or stepping stones, or something similar, and not soil. This will prevent contaminated soil from being tracked into the house.
Buy a good quality vacuum with a HEPA filter, a dirt finder/sensor and a power head. Make sure you get a good vacuum – you don’t want to redistribute the dust and vacuum regularly and properly.
Wash your hands and wash your baby’s hands! Get rid of that dust by washing, using warm water and regular soap.
Wet wipe regularly! Lead dust is sticky, and requires wet wiping to remove. Keep the areas where your family spends time dust free. Wet wipe or mop those areas your family, particularly your children, are likely to remove lead dust.
Wet wipe or wash toys! Regularly wet wipe or wash those toys your children play with to remove lead-contaminated dust.
Check the diet. Maintaining a diet that is sufficient in iron, vitamin C and calcium may inhibit the absorption of lead.
Maintain your paint. If your home was built before 1978, keep your paint well maintained.
Abate the lead. You may consider abating lead based paint hazards. There are four options, only one of which is permanent: replacement of lead painted items, enclosure of lead painted surfaces, such as by installing dry wall over painted surface, encapsulation of lead painted surfaces using a special coating designed to encapsulated lead, or removal of lead based paint. Abatement must be done be a certified lead abatement contractor. Call your state agency for help. If you have an older home, do not renovate/remodel without addressing lead based paint hazards and the generation of lead dust.
Notify landlord of peeling paint. If you rent, notify your landlord of any peeling or chipping paint.
Replace lead painted items. If a lead painted item is easily removable, then you may want to replace it, such as an interior door. However, this should only be considered if you can remove the item in a manner that doesn’t disturb the lead based paint.
Get your home tested. If you are concerned, you may want to get your home tested. You can either get an inspection, where the lead content of all painted surfaces are analyzed, or a risk assessment, which will tell you the sources of lead exposure and outline recommended actions. The EPA does not recommend home based test swabs because they cannot distinguish between high and low levels of lead. They just tell you if lead is present. And, they cannot detect paint below the surface. They may, however, be a useful screen, although they are prone to false negatives and positives.
Also, you can use lead dust wipes to test your home. With a lead dust wipe, you collect a wipe sample pursuant to a specified procedure and send it to a certified laboratory. These can tell you more accurately the levels of lead present in surface dust. The National Safety Council offers a lead dust test kit that includes everything needed to determine the presence of lead in the home.
Cover the lead based paint. Another option for paint in good condition is to cover the lead based paint. You may be able to cover the surface with wall board or use a sealant. But, this isn’t a long term solution.
Avoid activities that disturb/damage lead based paint. Don’t damage, cut into, scrape, sand, or otherwise disturb lead paint. Lead contaminated dust can be distributed throughout the home if you scrape, sand, chip, grind, cut into or otherwise disturb or damage lead based paint. Work done by someone unfamiliar with lead based paint hazards can create significant hazards. Many horror stories exist of homeowners or contractors with lead based paint contaminating homes by improper handling of lead based paint during home renovation activities.