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When Your Home Becomes Your Enemy

By Stephen Carter-Novotni · December 19th, 2007 · The Road to Wellness
I was shocked to find out that my toddler had elevated levels of lead in his blood. It stopped short of lead poisoning, but we needed to correct the problem immediately and I had no idea how this could have happened.

None of his toys had been recalled for lead paint, and, while there was lead paint on our woodwork, it wasn´t failing. There weren´t paint chips all over the floor.

It turns out that flakes of paint are just one way that this poison gets into our bodies. Our problem was lead dust.

Friction points throughout the home are the main vectors of lead dust. Lead painted windows and doors scrape against their frames like rasps as we open and close them. Dust is released and is spread throughout the house. I saw it in the window troughs and didn´t think much of it. I vacuumed it out as often as it accumulated and thought that was the end of it.

It turns out that because my vacuum didn´t have a HEPA filter it couldn´t trap the small lead particles.

While vacuuming the dust from the windows, I was probably spraying the entire house with a fine coating of lead.

Dealing with the problem isn´t hard, but it is tedious. It takes time and dedication to clear your home of danger.

¯ Test for the problem: Inexpensive lead paint test kits are available at paint stores. Your child should be tested by his pediatrician. The doctor can also recommend ways to purge lead contamination from your child´s body.

¯ Clean up the mess: Use a HEPA vacuum regularly to clear the dust and chipping paint. If you can´t afford one, the Cincinnati Health Department´s Lead Program will lend you one for free. Wet mopping bare floors and wiping down surfaces is important, too. This means cleaning all of the surfaces in your home. Toys, books and furniture should all be wiped down. Regular hand washing is also important.

¯ Deal with lead vectors: Learn more at the Center for Disease Control´s Web site (www.cdc.gov). There are toys, jewelry and even baby cribs that have been recalled because of lead paint. Replace old windows and doors with new lead-free ones. Repaint and encapsulate failing lead paint. Encapsulating paints like ChildGuard are available from paint stores. This is the safest and cheapest way to deal with lead.

Stripping the paint can amplify the problem because lead that was trapped in paint is loosed into your home. The chemicals that work best for stripping paint are dangerous and known carcinogens. Contaminated soil around your home can be removed and replaced with mulch or topsoil.



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