Kids And Lead Hazards

Any child under age six should be tested for lead poisoning. Your pediatrician can do the test. Children should be tested first when they are about a year old, and once or twice thereafter.

Be sure to request a venous blood-lead test, not just a finger-prick test. It costs about $15 to $25.

If a child’s blood lead level is above 10 micrograms per deciliter (10 µg/dL), it is high enough to indicate possible adverse effects.

If your child tests high for lead, you should pinpoint sources of lead in the child’s environment. In any house built before 1970, old lead paint is often the major source of lead poisoning. Paint in deteriorating condition—flaking, chipped, or cracked — is especially likely to cause hazardous lead exposure.

Ask your local health department to test the paint from your home for lead. Or you can try a home test. Consumer Reports found two do-it-yourself-kits, Lead Check Swabs and Frandon Lead Alert, to be fast, and inexpensive. But they can only alert you to the presence of lead, not tell you how much is present.

You can cover lead paint with sheetrock or paneling or you can have it removed. Do not attempt a large removal job yourself. If you hire professional contractors, be sure they are adequately trained and have the proper equipment to contain the lead dust.

For removing deteriorating paint in small areas, do-it-yourselfers should use a wet method. Heat guns, sanding or scraping can be very dangerous and can make problems worse. Consumer Reports found Peel Away, a chemical stripper, very effective and safe for small jobs, but expensive. At half the price, 3M Safest Stripper is more economical, safe, and almost as effective. Be sure to wipe all surfaces and wet-clean the area.

To test your drinking water for lead, Consumer Reports recommends using a commercial lab. It found Water Test in Manchester, New Hampshire and National Testing Laboratories in Cleveland, Ohio to be most reliable. A typical test costs about $15-40. Also good choices are: Applied Technical Services in Marietta, Georgia and Suburban Water Testing Laboratories in Temple, Pennsylvania.

If your water contains lead above the EPA’s drinking water standard of 15 µg/liter, Consumer Reports recommends letting the water run for a couple of minutes before drawing water for drinking or cooking. Water that stays in pipes can pick up lead from the plumbing system; flushing the pipes eliminates the contaminated water.

For households with moderately elevated levels of lead in drinking water, the Omni Total OT-1 water filter is effective at removing lead. It costs about $100 and sits on the counter.

Another major source of childhood lead exposure is soil contaminated with lead dust from auto exhaust or from paint on the exterior surfaces of buildings. To keep children away from soil along the sides of houses, plant bushes there. Plant grass to cover exposed soil and don’t let toddlers play in the dirt.