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A 37 year old, Trenton-based nonprofit that fosters self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.

Lead, Asthma, and Healthy Homes

Is Lead a Threat to Your Home?

Was your home or building built before 1978?

  • Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978.  According to the New Jersey Department of Community Affairs, approximately 2.4 million homes were built prior to 1978.

Are there children under the age of six living in your home or building?

  • Lead is especially dangerous to children under six years of age. Children can swallow lead dust or paint chips as they eat, play, and do other normal hand-to-mouth activities. They can have dangerous lead levels and still appear healthy.

Is your home or building being renovated, repaired, or painted?

  • The most common way to get lead in the body is from breathing in dust, and common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips. Always use lead-safe work practices or hire contractors with an EPA Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) certification when renovation or repair will disturb painted surfaces.  Information about lead safe work practices can be found at the EPA website.

Health Effects of Lead

 

Lead affects the body in many ways. It is important to know that even exposure to low levels of lead can severely harm children. In children, exposure to lead can cause:

  • Nervous system and kidney damage
  • Learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, and decreased intelligence
  • Speech, language, and behavior problems
  • Poor muscle coordination
  • Decreased muscle and bone growth
  • Hearing damage

While low-lead exposure is most common, exposure to high amounts of lead can have devastating effects on children, including seizures, unconsciousness, and, in some cases, death.

Although children are especially susceptible to lead exposure, lead can be dangerous for adults, too. In adults exposure to lead can cause:

  • Harm to a developing fetus
  • Increased chance of high blood pressure during pregnancy
  • Fertility problems (in men and women)
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

Your Regional EPA Office can provide further information regarding lead safety and lead protection programs at epa.gov/lead. Region 2 (New Jersey, New York, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands) (732) 321-6671

What should I do if I am concerned about my child’s exposure to lead?

 

Be informed:
There are things you can do to protect your family every day.

  • Avoid using products from other countries, such as health remedies, eye cosmetics (e.g., kohl, kajal, surma), candies, spices, snack foods, clay pots and dishes, painted toys, and children’s jewelry. These items may contain high levels of lead.
  • Make sure children eat a healthy, nutritious diet rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin C, which helps protect children from the effects of lead. Click for a list of suggested foods.
  • Make informed choices about the food you purchase and feed your baby. See this comprehensive list of safest and cleanest baby food products.
  • Any household member who does construction work or other work that may involve lead should remove work clothes before entering; wash them separately.
  • Wipe off or remove shoes before entering the house.

Get your child tested:
Children with high lead levels may not look or feel sick, a blood test is the only way to find out. NJ law requires all children to be tested for lead at ages one and two (N.J.A.C. §8:51A). Children under six are at the highest risk for lead poisoning; if your child under six has never had a blood test, you should schedule one as soon as possible.

  • Call your doctor or local health care center to arrange for a blood test during routine check ups.
  • Your local health department can test children without health insurance; there are also many childhood lead poisoning prevention projects that test children for free. Children participating in the Medicaid program must be tested for lead poisoning for free. Contact your local health department for more information on testing,.

Know the results:
Refer to the chart below to know what action to take based on the your child’s blood lead levels. Lead is toxic that it is unsafe at any level, even at blood test results less than 10 ug/dL (micrograms per deciliter), can make it hard for children to learn.

Dust from lead paint is the BIGGEST threat to young children.
If you’re concerned about lead in your home or building, it is important that you follow the steps below and continue reading as a homeowner, landlord, renter, or homebuyer.

  • Pay attention to peeling paint: Repair it safely if you’re a homeowner. Keep your child away from peeling paint.
  • Regularly wet wash clean floors, window sills, and other dusty surfaces.
  • Frequently wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, toys, and any other items your child puts in his or her mouth often.
  • Select the appropriate option below for important information about how to address lead paint in your home.

      

What you need to know about water and lead

 

If you are concerned about lead in your water from pipes, read more below. See this FAQ for more information on lead in water.

Be informed:
Because our bodies cannot tell the difference between lead and other minerals, lead is absorbed into the blood stream when a person drinks water containing lead.  This poses more of a risk for infants than for adults because of the large amount of water they consume compared to their body size and their still developing immune systems. Research has shown that supplementation with calcium, zinc, iron and vitamin C may be beneficial in preventing or reducing the toxic effects of lead.

Bathing and showering in water containing lead should be safe because human skin does not absorb lead in water though individual circumstances may vary.

Test your Drinking Water:

  • Testing can cost between $20 and $100. The best way to tell how much lead is in your water is to have it tested by a laboratory certified by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Quality Assurance/Laboratory Certification.
  • Call your water company and ask if they offer testing or can recommend a local certified laboratory.  The laboratory will provide you with one liter bottles to collect the water samples.  At least one sample should be taken from your kitchen tap in the morning before any water has been used.  This “first draw” water sample will probably contain the highest level of lead.  If your water contains more than 15 micrograms of lead per liter of water (ug/L), it is important to take steps to reduce that level.
  • You can also purchase a home test from any hardware store for $25. Your water should not contain lead levels above the EPA’s action level of 15 parts per billion (ppb)

Find the Source:
Drinking water may contain lead due to the use of lead pipes or lead solder. The use of lead pipes and solder (for potable water supplies) was banned in 1987, but many are still in place. Action steps will vary depending the source of lead in your drinking water.

  • Home faucets or fittings made of brass may contain some lead.
  • There may be lead pipes in your home or public water system. Lead pipes are dull gray and scratch easily with a key or penny. You can call your public water supplier and ask if their supply system contains lead piping and whether the water is corrosive.
  • Copper pipes may also contain lead solder, and as a result of corrosion, lead can dissolve into the water.
  • If you have a private well, lead may be contaminating your water through well parts or from a nearby waste facility or landfill. You could contact your health or water department for recommendations on how to treat your water to make it less corrosive.

Protect yourself from lead in your water:

  • Flush the water if it has not been used for several hours (such as overnight). The longer the time that water resides in the plumbing, the more likely it is that lead will build up in drinking water.
    •  If the source of lead is your public water system, run high-volume taps (like your shower) on cold for 5 minutes on more. Then, run the kitchen tap on cold for an additional 1-2 minutes. Fill clean containers with water from this tap to use for drinking, cooking, or washing fruits and vegetables.
    • If the source is within your home, flush your water system by running the tap for 1-2 minutes on cold. Fill clean containers with water from this tap for drinking or cooking, or washing fruits and vegetables.
  • Don’t consume water from the hot water faucet. Always use fresh water from the cold water tap. Heating water as it comes out of the pipes increases lead.
  • Use filtered or bottled water when preparing baby formula. Use filtered water from the cold water tap to make baby formula. Do not use hot water for mixing baby formula.
  • Don’t boil water excessively.   Excessive boiling may increase the concentration of lead in water due to evaporation.
  • Avoid using lead-based cookware. Cookware made outside of this country may contain lead, which will contaminate food during cooking.
  • Use water filtration systems certified for lead removal such as PUR, ZeroWater filters.
  • Clean your faucet’s aerator regularly (every two weeks). The aerator on the end of your faucet is a screen that will catch debris. This debris could include particles of lead. Click here for instructions on how to do so.