Reducing Toxics in the Home Environment: Lead

The last week in October (25th-31st, 2020) is National Lead Poisoning Prevention week!

During this time, there’s a great deal of focus on reducing the threat of lead hazards in our environment.

As you may know, lead is a naturally occurring chemical element that exists at low levels in a variety of earth materials. It is also a potent neurotoxin with negative impacts on a variety of systems within the body: in fact, there is no level of lead that is deemed medically safe for humans.

Over the course of our history, we’ve found great utility in this malleable metal, using it for a wide range of applications including conveying water (in the form of lead pipes), as a fuel additive, and as a pigment (in cosmetics, and for adding a touch of color to our surroundings). However by widely distributing this toxin, humans have irresponsibly endangered both themselves and future generations by raising lead levels within our built environment well beyond what occurs naturally.

So we’ve arrived here, at a point where we must focus, as a nation, on finding ways to reduce the health burden caused by overzealous exploitation of this resource. Rather than bemoaning the missteps of our ancestors, let’s instead be attentive to ways in which we can leave a more lead safe world for our descendants:

  • Access locally relevant resources to help you learn where lead is likely to occur in your surroundings.
  • Contact your water service providers and hold them accountable for removing lead from your drinking water system, in order to reduce your daily exposure.
  • Wet-mop your dwelling, and attempt to keep accumulations of dust to a minimum in your surroundings (especially important if you live in a structure constructed before the 1978 ban on lead paint in residential spaces).
  • Wash and peel your produce, especially root vegetables.
  • Scrutinize your personal care products to make sure they do not contain lead.
  • Do not eat soil (incredibly important for parents of small children who tend to have a high amount of hand-to-mouth behavior as they explore the world).
  • Contact your local, state, and federal representatives and let them know that you are concerned about lead in your environment. Ask them about legislative solutions that could be more protective of public health, and keeping this contaminant out of the bodies of those you care about. Legislative solutions include inspecting rental units for lead hazards and requiring remediation of the identified hazards, ensuring lead-safe renovation practices by contractors, and requiring structures slated for demolitions are sufficiently wetted to control fugitive dust emissions.

Remember always that lead poisoning prevention is not something that we do just one week a year: we must diligently work towards creating a lead safe environment for ourselves year-round!

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