Get the Lead Out
Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning. Follow these guidelines to help keep kids safe.
- Avoid direct contact with soil if you live near a lead polluter, in an urban area or near a highway. Touching soil with bare hands and getting it into the mouth can be hazardous.
- Keep kids on grassy areas or pavement when they play outside, and avoid playing in the dirt. Wash hands as soon as you get home.
- Save food and snacks for indoors, after you've washed up. Lead lingers in soil and dust, and can get ingested when kids put their hands in their mouths.
- Take shoes off at the door to avoid tracking contaminated dust or soil into the house.
- Vacuum carpets frequently -- a HEPA vacuum cleaner is best. Also use a damp rag to clean windowsills, surfaces and moldings. A damp mop is the best way to clean up lead dust particles from hard floors.
- Use gloves when you're gardening, and if you want to grow food, have the soil tested for heavy metals first. Alternatively, dig out the area of the garden bed, down to a depth of six inches or more, and replace the soil with clean topsoil. Root and vegetable crops, such as carrots and lettuce, tend to pick up more lead. Choose fruit crops such as corn, beans, squash, tomatoes or strawberries to minimize the risk of lead contamination.
- Check for peeling or flaking paint, especially around windows, doorframes and molding, if your house was built before 1978. Get the paint tested. The do-it yourself kits available at most hardware stores aren't always completely reliable, but they're a reasonable first step. Before having any renovations done, have the paint professionally tested. If there is lead in the paint, make sure a certified lead remediation contractor does the renovation work.
- Test imported dishware or pottery with a lead swab, available at most hardware stores, before cooking or serving food in it. Lead paints and glazes are still used outside the United States and Europe, and contaminated dishware and pottery -- particularly from Mexico and China -- has been found on store shelves in the United States.
- Watch out for toys imported from China, cheap kids' costume jewelry and candy made in Mexico -- these products could be contaminated with lead and pose a risk to children.
- Let tap water run a couple of minutes in the morning before you drink it, to make sure any water that has been standing in the pipes has run through -- you can collect it for watering your plants. Or use an NSF-certified water filter, available at most stores, for your drinking water. Charcoal filters (including filter pitchers) are effective at removing lead.
- Avoid drinking regularly from leaded crystal if you're pregnant.
last revised 10/16/2008
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