According to the Department of Health and Human Services lead is the leading environmental threat to US children. There are many ways that humans may be exposed to lead such as air, food, contaminated soil, drinking water, dust or deteriorating paint. Lead was used in many products, including interior paint for many years before it was discovered to be a major health hazard. Most of the homes in NJ which were built before 1960 used paint with large amounts of lead. Painters used lead based paints up until about 1978. It is imperative to be aware of the dangers of lead paint in order to protect yourself and your family from the hazard.
When lead enters the body it has a negative effect on almost all of the systems in the body. At high levels, it can cause a comatose state, convulsions or death. Even at lower levels, lead can have adverse effects on the brain, blood cells, kidneys and nervous system. Pregnant women should never be exposed to paint since the fumes can pass through to the developing baby and be hazardous. Fetuses, infants and children since their growing bodies absorb the lead more easily. Their tissues are much more sensitive to lead and exposure can have devastating effects.
As a general rule if the lead based paint is in good condition it may not pose a threat. Just make sure to not burn any wood that is paint covered; and do not sand paint that could be lead based. This will create an immediate health hazard. Scraping or sanding painted surfaces can emit a lot of dust into the air. There are two ways to keep children and pets safe if lead based paint has to be removed. Children, pregnant women and pets should all be completely out of the building and stay away until the work project has been completed and the cleanup is totally done. Avoiding exposure is the number one way to provide protection. It is very important to test a home if you suspect that lead based paints were used.
Today paint is manufactured by higher standards and lead is no longer used as an ingredient. It is still important to choose paints that produce less fumes. “Low-VOC” paints are formulated using stringent guidelines. These restrict how much of any carcinogenic chemicals can be used to make the paints. They may have some fumes, but not as much as some of the older oil or water based paints contain. “No VOC” or “VOC-free” are formulated so that they do not emit any kinds of fumes, but they are generally a lot more expensive than other paints. Natural or organic paints contain no synthetic chemicals or lead. They are made from various plant oils including citrus oils. They are not as resistant to molds and mildews so this type of paint should not be used in areas that are very humid such as bathrooms or basements.