9 Ways to Prevent and Deal with Lead Poisoning

Lead Rules 7-9

Rule #7: Make everybody take their shoes off before entering the home. This may be just about one of our favorite rules. It's possibly the most helpful way of keeping lead from outside dirt from entering your home -- and, oh yeah, it keeps the dirt out, too.

Rule #8: Watch out for the H2O. Minimize your child's exposure to other potential sources of lead, like water. It's generally only a problem if lead is leaching into cooking or drinking water via old pipes made with lead or lead fittings (such as those that exist in many prewar buildings), and it is a particular issue with hot water. The easiest way to control this is to limit your water use for cooking or drinking to the cold water tap.

As a safety mechanism, run it for a minute first -- well, at least 30 seconds, if you can't be that disciplined. The only problem with this is that "flushing" the pipes isn't always effective in high-rise buildings, which may have large-diameter supply pipes. If you are concerned, get the water tested. In some cities, New York for one, the Department of Environmental Protection will test your building for free. In less-generous cities, you should be able to get it done for about $50 or so (but beware of getting services from any testing group that may have a vested interest in how your results come in).

Rule #9: Never ignore the problem. If, by any chance, it is determined that lead hazards exist in your home, they must be taken care of. Views on the proper handling of lead paint vary, particularly whether abatement (permanent elimination of hazards) is preferable to interim control (treatments that temporarily reduce the risk of a hazard, like repairing chipped paint surfaces). Procedures are complicated. This is not a do-it-yourself job, and anyone you hire should be EPA-certified. Don't mess around: Get help from your pediatrician, your city health or environmental department, and the EPA if need be.

Excerpted from The City Parent Handbook: The Complete Guide to the Ups and Downs and Ins and Outs of Raising Young Kids in the City (Rodale, 2004) by Kathy Bishop and Julia Whitehead. Both women live, and parent, in New York City.

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.

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