While lead poisoning can occur as a result of exposure to everyday items (soil, toys, batteries, water, etc.), the primary source for lead in America remains lead-based paint. Poisoning can occur quickly, within hours, when significant levels of dust are created during home renovations. More often, it occurs over months or years as paint gradually deteriorates on walls and windows. Either way it takes its toll . . . particularly on children.

Like the many toxic missteps of yesterday, the issue of lead in America seems to be treated as a bad dream that we frequently try to forget. The problem with denial is lead-based paint remains in homes across the country, and too many families are unaware of its consequences. Occupants at risk must learn to identify potential health threats and recognize the signs of lead exposure.

Lead can impact any system of the body. Early symptoms of lead poisoning include: abdominal pain, constipation, fatigue, headaches and loss of appetite. Many victims complain of irritability, memory loss and inability to sleep. Anemia, high blood pressure and muscle and joint pain frequently occur.

Sudden exposures to high levels of lead result in symptoms such as nausea, confusion, clumsiness, seizures and coma. Such events are considered emergency situations that require immediate medical attention. While death is not common, the potential exists if there is significant lead exposure and pre-existing health conditions are involved. Children are particularly at risk, since ingestion, the way most kids are poisoned, is as simple as placing something contaminated with lead dust in their mouths.

A lead poisoning diagnosis is confirmed via a BLL (Blood Lead Level) test with 5 μg/dL serving as the Center for Disease Control’s reference blood level for children. While this reference level serves as a policy tool to designate particular children for further monitoring (97.5th percentile), the CDC remains adamant that in reality, there is no safe blood lead level for children. Chelation, a medical procedure that involves the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body, is a viable treatment.  However, it is important to remember why the impact of lead poisoning on children is far more devastating and permanent than its effects on adults.

Due to weight and metabolism, children absorb lead more quickly than their adult counterparts. Poor diets result in even more lead absorption as children’s bodies attempt to use lead to compensate for the lack of much needed nutrients, including calcium and iron. The blood brain barrier, a sophisticated filtering mechanism that protects our nervous system, protects most human brains once it is completely developed, but research shows that it takes time for children to fully develop this barrier. Thus, kids are particularly vulnerable to lead-based paint as their brains are both susceptible and still growing.

If you are a healthcare professional or work with an agency that requires investigations into incidents of lead poisoning, we encourage you to visit EI’s lead course offerings. Renovators, repairmen and painters will also want to sign up for The EI Group’s regularly scheduled RRP courses, an EPA requirement for individuals performing construction and/or maintenance in pre-1978 housing across the United States. The list of training courses includes regulated lead classes for abatement workers, supervisors, lead inspectors and risk assessors as well.

If you have any questions of which lead course is best for you, please do not hesistate to contact me at 800.717.3472 or jpoole@ei1.com.