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Improving Air Quality in Your Community

Indoor Air: Special Concerns in Older Homes: Lead - Additional Information

This information will help you gain a better understanding of questions homeowners may have about lead in older homes. The sections below provide more information on this topic.

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What are the health effects from exposure to lead?

  • Ways in Which People are Exposed to Lead
    • Lead exposure can occur if people :
      • Put their hands or other objects in their mouths that contain lead.
      • Eat paint chips or soil that contain lead.
      • Inhale lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
    • Lead is especially dangerous to children because:
      • Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths. These objects can have lead dust on them.
      • Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.
      • Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
    • Children and pregnant women are at the highest risk for exposure to lead.
  • Health Effects of Lead Exposure
    • Children
      • Damage to the brain and nervous system.
      • Behavior and learning problems (such as hyperactivity).
      • Slowed growth.
      • Hearing problems.
      • Headaches.
    • Adults
      • Difficulties during pregnancy.
      • Other reproductive problems (in both men and women).
      • High blood pressure.
      • Digestive disorders.
      • Nerve disorders.
      • Memory and concentration problems.
      • Muscle and joint pain.

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Where is lead found?

  • Lead-based paint may be found on many types of housing built before 1978, including single-family homes, apartments, and private and public housing.
  • Lead-based paint may be found both inside and outside the home.
  • Dust can contain lead from deteriorating lead-based paint or from soil tracked into the home.
  • Lead dust can form when lead-based paint is dry-scraped, dry-sanded, or heated. Dust also forms when painted surfaces bump or rub together.
  • Lead dust that has settled on surfaces and objects that people touch can re-enter the air when people vacuum, sweep, or walk through it.
  • Check out issues associated with lead in drinking water.

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How can the risk of lead poisoning be reduced?

  • Specifics for Homes
    • Get your home checked for lead hazards, especially if it was constructed before 1978.
    • Regularly clean floors, window sills, and other high-use surfaces.
    • Wipe soil off shoes before entering the house.
    • Do not bring lead dust into the home. Lead dust can be generated by disturbing lead-contaminated soil or at certain workplaces such as secondary lead smelters.
  • Specifics for Remodeling
  • Specifics for Children
    • If you suspect lead poisoning, get young children tested for lead, even if they appear normal.
    • Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
    • Frequently wash children's hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys.
    • Make sure children eat foods high in calcium and iron.
    • Check out EPA's brochure called Lead and a Healthy Diet: What You Can Do to Protect Your Child (PDF) (8 inches x 8 inches page, 10 pp, 376 KB).
  • Check out a table that summarizes several studies about reducing lead through mitigation and education.

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How can lead problems within older homes be remediated?

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