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Health Department has tips to be lead-free this summer

Posted 10 July 2019 at 3:18 pm

Press Release, Orleans and Genesee County Health Departments

The Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments want your kids to be lead free this summer! As many of us know, lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies.

Lead can be found in dust, air, water, soil, and in some products used in and around our homes. Although anyone can develop lead poisoning, unborn babies and children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk for health problems due to lead poisoning. Children with high lead levels in their blood can develop learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity and impaired hearing, as well as damage to other vital organs within the body, such as the kidneys and stomach. Below are some tips on how to be lead-aware this summer to keep our kids healthy and strong!

When beginning renovations and repairs around the home

If your home was built before 1978, there is a good chance it has lead-based paint. Sarah Balduf, Environmental Health Director of Genesee and Orleans counties, explains why renovating older homes can cause lead poisoning if not completed properly.

“Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create unsafe lead dust and chips,” she said. “The most common way to get lead in the body is from dust. The key to protecting yourself and your family during a renovation, repair or painting job is to use lead-safe work practices including containing dust inside the work area, using dust-minimizing work methods, and conducting a careful cleanup.”

Safe work practices that Balduf encouraged include:

• Remove all furnishings and rugs before beginning your project. The work area should be sealed with plastic and taped down to keep the lead dust in. Cover air vents and turn off heaters and air conditioning systems during renovation and remodeling.

• When beginning the renovation it is important to have the proper protective equipment on hand. It is best to wear a properly fitted respirator with special lead HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters, as well as coveralls, goggles and gloves.

• Consider using special paints called encapsulants that seal the lead paint to the surface so it will not chip off.

• Use low dust practices by spraying water on surfaces before sanding or scraping.

• Vacuum any lead dust with a HEPA vacuum. Floors should be wet mopped with a removable mop head and then HEPA vacuumed. When finished, the mop head should be disposed or washed separately.

• Keep all non-workers, especially children, pregnant women, and pets outside of the work area until cleanup is completed.

• After the project site has been completely cleaned, throw away your protective gear or wash it separately.

When playing outside

Soil around homes built before 1978 may contain paint chips or lead dust from old paint that has cracked, blistered or peeled from areas on the outside of the home. Homes located near busy roads can also have elevated lead in the soil due to leaded gasoline fumes. Lead contaminated soil may get stuck under fingernails or on toys that children put in their mouths. Contaminated soil can also enter homes from shoes exposed to lead contaminated soil. When children spend time outside, it is important to:

• Wash child’s hands after outdoor play and before outdoor meals/snacks.

• Avoid playing in bare soil.

• Avoid playing under porches.

• Move play areas away from old buildings and roads.

• Fill a new sandbox with clean sand.

• Wash toys that have been outdoors.

Gardeners should also be aware of lead contaminated soil, especially when growing fruits, vegetables and herbs. Plants usually do not absorb lead, but lead particles can settle on produce and herbs grown in lead contaminated soil. After gardening, always wash your hands and face. Thoroughly wash any produce before storing and eating. If possible, plant gardens away from roads and old buildings. You may also plant produce in pots or raised beds using new soil and compost.

Healthy foods to prevent lead poisoning

A well-balanced diet is very important for preventing lead poisoning. Avoid meals that are high in fats and oils because they can help the body absorb lead. Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with full stomachs. Serve foods that are a good source of calcium, iron and vitamin C. These foods can help your child’s body absorb less lead.

• Calcium keeps your bones strong and the lead out. Calcium-rich foods include: Milk and milk products, such as yogurt and cheese; Green leafy vegetables, including kale and turnip, mustard and collard greens; Calcium-fortified foods, such as orange juice, soy milk and tofu; and canned salmon and sardines.

• Iron also blocks lead from being absorbed. Iron-rich foods include: Lean red meats; iron-fortified cereal, bread and pasta; dried fruit, such as raisins and prunes; and beans and lentils.

• Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron better, but also may help with getting rid of lead. Foods rich in vitamin C include citrus fruits, such as oranges and grapefruit; other fruits such as kiwi, strawberries and melon; tomatoes; potatoes and peppers.

For more information about lead, click here.

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