What Is Lead and Why Is It a Hazard?
Lead is a soft metal that has been mined for thousands of years, and has often been used to make common items found within homes, such as: paint, pipes, gasoline, and even food cans! Although stable and easy to work with, exposure to it can be dangerous, especially for children 6 years of age or younger. Though law changes have greatly reduced the amount of lead found in our homes, jobs and the air today, it is important to remember that lead does not break down over time. Therefore, any paint chips, dust or contaminated soil present is just as toxic now as the day it was placed there. Water that runs through lead fixtures or pipes will be contaminated; lead contamination can not be cleaned by boiling the water.
Lead is poisonous as it will interfere with the basic functions of a human body, to which, lead is indistinguishable from calcium. This means that lead will remain in the blood stream for weeks and build up within the bones that absorb it, remaining for a lifetime. Though lead poisoning affects anyone exposed, younger children are especially susceptible to it due to their developing bodies, and the tendency to insert things into their mouths.
Children exposed to low levels of lead can experience health problems such as: nervous system & kidney damage, learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, speech/language problems, behavioral issues, decreased muscle coordination, stunted growth and hearing damage. High levels of exposure can also cause seizures, unconsciousness and even death. Adult exposure can: harm to a fetus, fertility problems (in both genders), high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and focus problems, muscle and joint pain, persistent fatigue or hyper-activity, irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, insomnia and even constipation. These symptoms often mirror symptoms for different illnesses, making lead poisoning difficult to detect – even more so because there are times when no symptoms are present.
Just about every building constructed prior to 1978 contains some lead based paint. NYC Local Law 1, for multi-family dwellings in which children under the age of six reside, requires tenants be informed of possible lead hazards. Lead exposure is especially dangerous to children since critical organs and systems are under development (i.e. central nervous system). Children in housing where lead based painted surfaces are in poor condition are at an elevated risk of ingestion of chips and inhalation of dust. Adults are generally at risk during construction activities such as alterations, renovations and demolitions when the surface is disturbed or burned.
What can be done about lead contamination?
EMS of NY has EPA-certified lead inspectors that are capable of performing surveys that meet various OSHA, HUD and EPA regulatory requirements. Comprehensive lead paint inspections and risk assessments can be provided for housing projects, schools, facility owners, mangers, developers, attorneys and potential home or building buyers. Projects Design and Lead Abatement Consulting & Contracting, as well as providing expert testimony on behalf of clients in litigation involving lead contamination and/or poisoning, are additional services offered to EMS of NY clients.
Lead surveys involve testing interior and exterior painted surfaces using an XREF (X-Ray Fluorescence) Spectrum Analyzer to determine the amount of lead in a painted surface. The XRF analyzer provides readings in 30 seconds without disturbing or damaging the surface. Confirmatory samples will be collected and analyzed via Flame Atomic Absorption Spectrometry (FAAS) as necessary. A detailed report is prepared for the client including a description of the building, sampling location, XRF results and FAAS results.
Am I Required to Do Anything After Testing?
You may not be required to do anything, but read about the situations described below to see if either one applies to you:
Before abatement begins, some steps can be taken to prevent exposure and further contamination for interim control over the situation. Listed below, these methods will temporarily reduce risk levels, but a more permanent solution will be required in the future.
Abatement & Other Solutions:
Abatement is the permanent elimination of lead-based paint hazards. The four methods below are for abatement of structural components in housing.
Individuals can perform many simple interim controls themselves, but due to the dangerous nature of abatement, only a certified contractor should perform abatements.