Home Repair and Lead Safety | Illinois Poison Center 

Home Repair and Lead Safety

Nov 23, 2020
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Tis’ the Season for Home Repairs, Renovations and Maintenance…


Step 1:  Protect Your Children and Yourself from Toxic Lead Dust!


It only takes a small amount of lead dust, about the size of a match stick, to pose a danger especially to young children and pregnant women.


Painted surfaces in homes built before 1978 could contain lead, an invisible poison, easily unleashed by scraping, sanding or melting a surface. These techniques are commonly used in home renovations, repairs and maintenance done by homeowners or hired contractors (plumbers, painters, construction workers, etc.) which could result in lead dust and chips in the home.  

12% of the U.S. lead poisoned children live right here in Illinois!


Young children absorb about 5 times more lead than adults. That means children ages 6 months to 3 years old are at greater risk of elevated blood lead levels (EBLL) due to more “hand-to-mouth” activities including: crawling, thumb-sucking and dragging their blankets which can end up in their mouths.


The body reacts to lead as if it is calcium, depositing the toxin in the bones where it is stored and gradually released over decades.  Lead in the brain causes developmental delays, nervous system damage, behavioral problems, attention deficit disorder and much more.


The damage might not be diagnosed for weeks or months, if ever.  Most children with EBLL don’t show any symptoms.  If they do, they’re crabby and tired and not eating right, which is a common occurrence for many toddlers.  A pediatrician confronted with a child with undiagnosed EBLL or lead poisoning may not be able to differentiate.


 Lead poisoning is 100% preventable but once damage occurs to a child’s brain, it is irreversible…preventing exposure is the key.


Determining if there’s lead in your home can be a challenge.  Traditional home inspectors don’t look for it and home testing kits are limited to only the top layer of paint and have a high error rate.  


Here are some safety tips to consider if you’re planning on renovating your home and it was built before 1978 (the year lead paint was banned for residential use):

  •  Have the area tested for lead-base paint
  • Seal off the work area
  • Temporarily move your family and pets (especially children and pregnant women until the work is done and properly cleaned up
  •  Have a dust test done to be sure cleaning has been sufficient; small dust particles are the most important and can only be detected with a wipe test
  • Follow lead safe work practices by calling 1.800.424.LEAD and ask for the brochure “Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home”
  • Most importantly, have your child tested for lead levels at ages 1 and 2 years old and more often if you think your child has been exposed to lead via lead dust/chips, toys, soil, etc. (9 months to 6 years); a simple finger prick test at either a doctor’s office or the local board of health. For more information go to: http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/  or 1.800.545.2200

For more lead information or contacts visit:

  •  Illinois Poison Center: www.IllinoisPoisonCenter.org to for “Lead Poisoning Safety Tips” and “Testing Your Lawn and Garden for Lead Contaminated Soil” and other poison prevention resources.
  • Environmental Protection Agency: www.epa.gov/lead  for information on the new “Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Program” rule or for copies of free educational brochures call: 1.800.424.LEAD (5323)
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