What You Need to Know About Lead

By Larraine Roulston:
Lead (chemical symbol Pb) is one of those hidden pollutants that could be in your home — especially if your house was built prior to 1980. If left untouched, lead in wall paints most likely will not cause a problem at all. Should you start scraping off old paint around windowsills or door frames, though, wear a mask and gloves, and seal off the work area to keep children away. Not only was lead an additive in paint; but if you discover that a red or pink primer was used, chances are that it, too, will be toxic.
Many products created either for customer appeal, improved performance or convenience end up having environmental or health consequences. Lead is an example of this. It was added to paints for easier application. But now we know that various degrees of lead poisoning caused by ingestion, inhalation or skin absorption can result in symptoms such as nausea, muscle weakness, confusion, blindness or coma. According to research, lead levels in children under 4 years of age may contribute to retarded growth, learning difficulties, bad behavior, hyperactivity, poor hearing, and anemia. Infants and toddlers are more vulnerable: their rapid development allows lead to be absorbed more easily. In pregnant women, lead is released with maternal calcium, possibly causing premature births or smaller babies. Adults who have worked with leaded paints or have mined lead can experience higher blood pressure, reproductive problems or kidney malfunction. After exposure, lead can remain in the blood stream for over 30 years.
If you are planning to modernize an older home, consulting a professional to test the levels of lead in the paint before you begin renovating would be wise. Visitors with small children should be warned if your home is not lead free. This allows parents to keep kiddies from running their hands along the walls then putting fingers in their mouths.
Be mindful of old paint outside the house, garage or garden shed. Lead particles in these areas could remain in the surrounding soil, also.
If you are an artist, you may be interested in turning old-fashioned window frames into pictures or broken wooden lawn chairs into wall ornaments. If so, exercise caution when removing any chipped paint.
Author and media broadcaster Gillian Deacon’s national bestseller, Theres Lead in Your Lipstick, documented that lead and other toxins are in our everyday cosmetics and body care products. Lead is a heavy metal often found in the pigments used for color and shine. As we know, lipstick is often ingested through licking our lips. The key here is to choose lighter lipstick shades and opt for dull over glossy. Investigate the ingredients used in your favorite cosmetics. Try healthier lip products such as coconut butter or essential oils made from plant-based materials. Applying more natural lip balms or avoiding lipsticks altogether are the best alternatives.
Lead also could be found in plumbing, older pencils and batteries. An interesting observation revealed that when lead was removed from gasoline, the crime rate decreased.
The best way to avoid lead poisoning is through prevention. Get the lead out. Make healthier everyday choices.
To paraphrase the Bard: “Pb or not Pb, that is the question!”
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Larraine writes children’s books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit www.castlecompost.com

Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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