Posted by: Lawyer Sanders | June 8, 2009

Kentucky environmental lawyer Sanders says lead paint in a powerful neurotoxin for children and pregnant women, so be careful with old paint.

Lead-based paint is a major source of lead poisoning for children and can also affect adults. In children, lead poisoning can cause irreversible brain damage and can impair mental functioning.

It can retard mental and physical development and reduce attention span. It can also retard fetal development even at extremely low levels of lead. In adults, it can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body.

Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. Thus, young children, fetuses, infants, and adults with high blood pressure are the most vulnerable to the effects of lead.

Lead was used as a pigment and drying agent in “alkyd” oil based paint. “Latex” water based paints generally have not contained lead. About two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint.

Some homes built after 1960 also contain heavily-leaded paint. It may be on any interior or exterior surface, particularly on woodwork, doors, and windows.

In 1978, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission lowered the legal maximum lead content in most kinds of paint to 0.06% (a trace amount). Consider having the paint in homes constructed before the 1980s tested for lead before renovating or if the paint or underlying surface is deteriorating. This is particularly important if infants, children, or pregnant women are present. 

For more information, go to the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services’ lead abatement site http://chfs.ky.gov/dph/ach/abate.htm , the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) site http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/leadinfo.htm#remodeling or contact your local health department.

We will have a follow up column on lead paint abatement in the near future, so be on the lookout for it.

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