Lead Poisoning 101


Lead is an extremely toxic metal, especially when it is processed into toxic lead compounds, such as the additives used in paint and gasoline for most of the 20th Century. There are many ways lead can be introduced into the human body, but the major source of exposure today is invisible dust from old lead-based paint. In 1978, lead-based paint was banned in the U.S. for residential use, but over 50 Billion square feet of lead paint still remain today on our schools and homes in the US alone.  It surprises many to know that 40 states still have a majority of homes built before lead paint was banned.

It is certainly not a problem of the past, and represents what the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have called the #1 environmental health hazard to children in the US.  Thankfully, it is also completely preventable if parents take a few minutes to understand the areas where hazards exist, and the latest advice and technology to neutralize this leading cause of child brain damage leading to learning and behavior disorders.

Any painted structure built before 1978 may contain lead-based paint. If the structure has been painted since 1978, the additional layers of paint have simply covered up the lead-based paint beneath. The older the structure, the greater the risk of high concentrations of  lead-based paint. For example, a structure built in 1950 may have ten layers of paint, with half of those applied prior to 1978, thus containing a higher concentration of lead.


When the paint is not disturbed, the risk of exposure to lead is very small. When paint is disturbed, lead dust is created. For example, an older window or door, with years of paint layers, can produce lead dust just from ordinary opening and closing. The window sills collect lead dust which can be spread simply by opening the window. When walls are demolished during a renovation, lead dust is created and becomes airborne.

A common misconception about lead danger is that it only occurs in older, inner city housing. However, according to Bob Jones, Chairman of National Association of Home Builders, there are 79 million homes in the U.S. that were built before 1978. Young families are buying and renovating these homes creating new dangers for lead poisoning.


Lead dust is particularly dangerous because it is invisible. A lead dust particle the size of a grain of sand can poison a small child. According to the EPA, the amount of lead dust equal to the size of a sweetener packet is enough to contaminate a space one-third the size of a football field. Lead is a heavy metal, so the particles naturally fall onto surfaces instead of staying airborne. As the dust falls to the floor and surfaces, such as furniture and window sills, it often comes in contact with human hands. Children are at risk in these homes because they play and crawl around on floors and often put their hands or objects into their mouths which creates an easy pathway for lead ingestion. Lead has a sweet taste, which encourages the child to put their hands in their mouth even more.

A doctor can perform a simple test to determine the amount of lead in a child’s blood. Lead stays in the bloodstream for only a few months. Elevated lead levels will return to normal if the child is taken out of the dangerous environment. However, this does not mean the lead is gone, it only means that the lead has left the bloodstream and moved into the soft tissue and bones where it remains for years.


Children often show no signs of lead exposure or lead poisoning which makes diagnosis difficult. Children absorb more lead than adults, and because their brains are still rapidly developing before the age of 10, lead poisoning at this stage of life creates permanent and irreversible damage. In higher levels of exposure, flu-like symptoms may occur. Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Although lead poisoning is most commonly associated with learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavior problems, other symptoms include loss of appetite, abdominal pain, vomiting, anemia, kidney failure, loss of hearing and speech problems. These problems can then carry over into adulthood. According to Dr. Kim Dietrich’s research at the University of Cincinnati, lead exposure has been linked to aggressive behavior, violence and histories of incarceration.  Adults with lead poisoning also experience high blood pressure, memory loss, sexual dysfunction, kidney failure and other health problems. Pregnant women are particularly at risk because lead crosses the placental barrier. An unborn child will have a blood lead level equal to 80% of their mother’s. An exposed unborn child will absorb lead that will remain in their body their entire lives.

Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (µg/dl).

While the Centers for Disease Control emphasized that “No safe blood lead level in children has been identified,” they have set a reference level of 5 µg/dL to identify children with levels much higher than the average child today. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends intervention for levels above 5 µg/dL. Studies have shown that cognitive loss is greater with lead levels between 1 – 5 µg/dl than levels between 5 – 10 µg/dl.  Even a level of 1.6  µg/dL, once considered “safe” is now known to be 100 times higher than “natural” levels in humans before leaded paint and gasoline introduced extremely toxic lead compounds that are now found in even the most remote corners of the world because of airborne transmission.


LockUpLead is an EPA-tested safe solution designed to interact with the lead dust at the source. Lead dust is immobilized by LockUpLead and is converted on a molecular level to actually lower the bioavailability (the amount of lead that can be absorbed by the digestive system), as proven by EPA testing as shown in this helpful graphic: How LockUpLead Works.  Always follow safe lead practices and insist on anyone doing work in your home that disturbs older paint to do the same.  You can learn about EPA’s recommendations and requirements for all contractors working in pre-1978 homes at http://epa.gov/lead.  To get started with household cleaners, renovation dust suppressants, and green and healthy zero VOC paint, click below to order from our online store for quick delivery.

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