Scientific American has published a good article outlining why lead remains a danger years after it was banned from paint and gasoline: Lead Exposure on the Rise Despite Decline in Poisoning Cases.
Lead poisoning is caused by acute exposure at high concentrations, like when a child eats paint chips. But “even though the average concentration of lead in the American bloodstream has dropped by a factor of 10 since the late 1970s, the levels are still two orders of magnitude higher than natural human levels, which have been determined by studying skeletal remains of native Americans dating to before the industrial revolution.”
Recent data demonstrates that health complications from lead arise even at low exposures, prompting scientists to advise the EPA and health departments to lower the concentration deemed acceptable in the bloodstream.
Lead exposure is linked to impaired cognition, lower academic test scores, psychiatric disorders, hypertension, and arrhythmia. It is also implicated in dementia in the elderly (aging bones release lead along with calcium).
Lead exposure costs the U.S. about $209 billion a year.
How to reduce your family’s exposure to lead:
• Leave shoes at the door. There’s lead in the dirt that shoes track in.
• Vacuum regularly. Lead accumulates in house dust from chipped paint and other sources.
• Wash hands often (not just before meals) to reduce ingestion. This is particularly important for small children who play on the floor.
• If your house was built before 1978, test paint chips for lead. You can buy home test kits from Amazon or your local hardware store. Make sure your children can’t reach any areas of chipping paint.
• Test your home for lead before remodeling.
Take it further:
• Ask your school board and your parks department whether playground soil has been tested for lead contamination. (A number of New Orleans’ public playgrounds recently went through lead remediation when their soil was found to be contaminated).
• Test the soil in your yard.
Read more about lead testing and protecting your family here.