The Banning of Lead Based Paint: When and Why
The banning of lead based paint happened in 1978 when the Consumer Products Safety Commission banned the sale of lead based paint for residential use. This means that any homes built in 1978 could still have used lead-based paint, because existing supplies of paint containing lead would still have been available. Lead was added to paint as far back as Colonial times for color and durability. Over time, as medical knowledge of the risks of lead evolved, prohibition of lead-based paint began to expand.
When it comes to health risks of lead, children under age 6 are most at-risk from small amounts of lead. This is because their bodies are still developing and during normal and frequent playing or hand-to-mouth activity, children may swallow or inhale dust from their hands, toys, food or other objects. In children, lead poses the following risks:
• Nervous system and kidney damage.
• Decreased intelligence, attention deficit disorder, and learning disabilities.
• Speech, language, and behavior problems.
For adults, pregnant women are especially at risk from exposure to lead. Lead is passed from the mother to the fetus and can cause the following:
• Premature births
• Brain damage
• Low birth weight.
Additional health effects of lead in adults can also include:
• High blood pressure.
• Fertility problems in men and women.
• Digestive problems.
• Nerve disorders.
• Memory and concentration problems.
• Sexual disorders.
• Muscle or joint pain.
Lead-based paint is dangerous because the signs and symptoms of poisoning are not as outwardly obvious as in other cases of exposure to dangerous chemicals. These effects can often be attributed to other factors unknowingly, while the exposure continues undetected. Some additional and misleading signs of lead poisoning include:
• Stomach ache
• Loss of appetite
• Joint and/or muscle pain
Because many symptoms are non-specific or similar to flu symptoms, parents may not be alerted to get immediate medical attention for their children. This is critical for young children. The longer a young child stays untreated, the higher the risk of permanent brain damage.
Workers with an occupational exposure to lead need to inform their doctors in order to give them all the background needed for an adequate evaluation of symptoms as possibly related to lead exposure. This is why it is also important to know the date of construction before doing renovations of any kind. Stay lead safe so they can play lead safe!