What is lead poisoning?
Too much lead in the body can cause serious damage to the brain, kidneys, nervous system and red blood cells. High levels can cause retardation, convulsions, coma and sometimes death. Low levels can slow a child's normal development and cause learning and behavioral problems.
Children are more sensitive to lead poisoning than adults because their nervous systems and body organs are growing and changing rapidly. Also, children are more efficient at absorbing lead into their bodies than adults and have more hand-to-mouth activity.
How do children become lead poisoned?
Many exterior and interior house paints sold before 1978 contained lead. Many older homes have surfaces painted with lead-based paint. Lead poisoning can be caused when children eat, chew, or suck on lead painted objects such as windowsills, railings, toys, or furniture. Lead poisoning can also be caused by young children's normal hand-to-mouth activity if there is lead in the household dust or soil. Lead dust may be created as paint ages and breaks down into powdery dust. Renovation activity such as stripping, scraping, sanding, grinding, torch burning, or sandblasting old paint can also create lead dust. Dirt near busy streets may contain lead dust from cars that used leaded gasoline.
What are the symptoms of lead poisoning?
Most children have no symptoms. When children do have symptoms, the symptoms are often similar to common childhood complaints such as headaches, irritability, tiredness, lack of appetite and stomach aches. Because these symptoms are not specific, parents and physicians may not suspect lead poisoning. A blood test is the only sure way to detect lead poisoning.
Who should be tested and how often?
Screening for lead poisoning should be part of a normal health program, and children 6 years and under, should be tested at least once a year. Children ages 6 months to 3 years should be tested every 1-12 months, depending on the blood lead level, and whether they are at high or low risk for lead poisoning. Steps to prevent lead exposure in an individual child should be taken when a child's blood lead level is 15 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dL). If a child's blood level is 20 µg/dL or higher, the child should receive medical follow-up and a home inspection.
HOUSEHOLD SOURCES OF LEAD
Window sills and wells
Door frames and sills
Floors and stairs
Railings and banisters
Toys and play equipment
Some antique baby furniture
In Wisconsin, some pipes installed before 1972
Some solder used in pipes before 1984
Grown in contaminated soil
Stored in lead-glazed pottery
Contaminated by dust and residue from the air or hands
From cans with sealed lead solder seams
Some ceramics, leaded crystal glassware
Near lead painted buildings that have weathered or been scraped or sandblasted
Near busy roads
Near orchards and other areas sprayed with lead arsenate
Dust and fumes from lead painted materials that have been burned, sandblasted, or heated
Fumes from auto and industrial emissions
Dust spread by people who work with lead
Dust created by removing lead paint during home renovation projects
TIPS TO PREVENT LEAD POISONING
Have your home inspected or send paint samples to a laboratory for analysis (a list of laboratories follows).
Have your child tested regularly.
Get your soil tested if you suspect it may be contaminated.
Get your water tested. If you suspect that you may have lead in your water, run the water for 2 or 3 minutes each morning before using it for cooking or drinking. Don't use hot water for cooking or drinking.
Wash dusty surfaces, especially floors, windowsills and wells with tri-sodium phosphate (TSP) available in hardware stores. Be sure to rinse after washing.
Wash your own and your child's hands frequently.
Cover lead-based paint on chewable surfaces.
If your job exposes you to lead, shower and change clothes before you come home.
Provide well-balanced meals, low in fat and high in iron and calcium.
Remove or cover contaminated soil with clean soil and grass.
Notify neighbors with children before beginning exterior renovations.
Remember the risk factors and sources of lead poisoning covered in this brochure.
WISCONSIN CHAPTER 151
According to Wisconsin law Chapter 151, "Prevention of Lead Poisoning or Lead Exposure,” all health professionals and laboratory directors must report blood lead test results of 25 micrograms per deciliter of blood or greater to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Social Services (DUSS). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control in October 1991 stated that "blood lead levels at least as low as 10 µg/dL are associated with adverse health effects." Under Wisconsin law, DHSS is required to ado the definition of lead poisoning or lead exposure that corresponds to the specification of the Centers for Disease Control. DHSS will issue rules to adopt 10 µg/dL as the definition of lead poisoned or lead exposed.
Under Chapter 151, Wisconsin DHSS or local public health officials may inspect dwellings for the presence, location and condition of lead-bearing paints. If the DHSS (or local health agency) determines that lead-bearing paints are present in or upon any dwelling, the department may notify the owner and "issue instructions remove, replace or cover securely and permanently these paints within 30 days, in a manner the department prescribes."
If the property owner fails to correct the hazards within days, this shall be evidence of negligence in any legal action for damages or injuries. Violations are enforced by county district attorneys and subject to fines of $1,000 per day, with each day of continued violation considered as a separate offense.
WISCONSIN CHAPTER 709
As of September 1, 1992, persons who sell one-to-four family residential real estate must disclose if they are aware of unsafe concentrations of, or unsafe conditions relating to lead in paint, lead in soil or lead in water supplies or plumbing system.
WISCONSIN CHAPTER 704.07 (4)
This chapter provides tenants with rights if a property becomes untenantable because of health hazards.
Lead Paint Removal
Removing lead paint is dangerous and can cause increased lead exposure to workers and to children. You may want to find experienced and trained professionals to do the work. You must take precautions to prevent lead paint dust and debris from contaminating the air, the inside of the home or the soil outside. Capture all lead dust and debris and be sure it gets to a secure landfill. Children and pregnant women should be kept out of the work area until the work is done and the area has been thoroughly cleaned.
Preferred Lead Removal Methods
These 8 methods create less lead dust than other methods:
Replace windows, windowsills, doors, porch or stair railings, banisters or other woodwork or trim with new unpainted products.
Remove woodwork and send it to a business that chemically strips off the old paint.
Cover interior walls or ceilings with wallboard or paneling.
Cover exterior walls with vinyl or aluminum siding.
Install vinyl or aluminum window sash tracks.
Cover window wells with durable products (sheet metal or fiberglass cloth and adhesive).
Cover floors with plywood or linoleum and stairs with rubber tread and metal edges.
Cover lead painted non-friction surfaces with durable products such as fiberglass tape.
A simple low cost option is to wet down leaded paint and wet scrape it off in large pieces. This is safer than methods that generate small dust particles. Chemical paint removers create less dust in air, but the dissolved paint is hard to clean up.
Clean Up is Crucial to the Success of Any Lead Abatement Project
After you have scraped and removed the loose paint, wash the surfaces with a phosphate solution (mix 1 cup automatic dishwasher detergent that contains at least 5% phosphate into a gallon of water) and then rinse with clean water before repainting (use gloves).
Use a HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) vacuum to remove lead dust and debris. These may be available from your local health department.
Take dust wipe samples before re-occupancy to determine if cleanup has been effective.
Wash hands before eating or drinking.
Change work clothes and shoes before entering your car or any occupied area.
Avoid Unsafe Methods of Lead Paint Removal
Any method that attempts to remove lead paint from the underlying surface is dangerous. The following methods generate hazardous amounts of lead in the air, and are NOT recommended:
Open flame torches,
Sandblasting and sanding.
Children in homes where lead is improperly removed often experience increased lead exposure.
Where Can I Get Help if My Child Is Poisoned?
If your child has high blood lead levels, your physician will choose a treatment based on the blood test results. An important part of any treatment is to prevent future exposure to lead. Your home should be inspected inside and outside to identify the sources. If lead is found, the law requires lead hazards in paint, plaster or other material to be removed or covered.
Wisconsin Lead Information
Wisconsin Division of Health's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will provide information about lead screening for children. Call 608-266-1826 for this information. For environmental lead information call 608-266-5885 or 608-266-7897.
WISCONSIN LEAD TESTING RESOURCES
Blood samples can be taken at your doctor's office or in some local public health agencies or WIC clinics. The following labs are certified by the Centers for Disease Control and will provide advice on blood lead testing procedures.
State Lab of Hygiene 608-262-1146
West Allis Hospital Lab 414-546-6313
City Milwaukee Health Department 414-278-3526
Marshfield Clinics 715-387-5317
Paint Testing and Environmental Evaluation:
The Wisconsin Division of Health's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will help coordinate testing for lead in homes of children whose blood lead is high. Call 608-266-5885 or 608-266-7897 for information.
The State Lab 608-263-6550 can test air, paint, and dust samples for lead.
Contact your local public health department that should have access to paint testing equipment.
State Lab of Hygiene 608-262-1293
DNR certified labs 608-266-0821
UW Soils Lab Madison 608-262-4364
Written By: Division of Health
Printed By: Wisconsin Council on Developmental Disabilities