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According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, it is estimated that 1 out of every 10 preschoolers, or 434,000 children between the ages of one and five, suffer from some form of lead poisoning. Poisoning occurs when children either swallow peeling lead paint chips or inhale lead paint dust. Children are at greater risk to lead paint poisoning because their bodies absorb up to 50% of the lead they ingest while adults retain only 10%. As their brains and central nervous systems are still developing, lead will accumulate in a child’s body until ultimately, causing irreversible damages that may not appear for many years.
Studies have revealed that high lead levels from this accumulation in the body may cause damage to the central nervous system, brain injuries, reduced intelligence, growth retardation, learning disabilities, and behavioral difficulties. In extreme cases, seizure like symptoms, comas and even death may result. The only reliable way to diagnose lead poisoning is by means of a blood test. The test results are then measured in micrograms per deciliter. Currently, the Center for Disease Control states the threshold for lead poisoning is just 10 mg/deciliter.
While children who live in old, poorly maintained housing tend to face the greatest risk of lead poisoning, if your building was built before 1978 it is very possible that lead paint was used. The reason for this is despite worldwide knowledge for nearly half a century of the dangers of lead in paint, drinking water and gasoline, paint manufacturers and the lead industry funded a massive effort in the United States to delay legislation regulating the use of lead. It was not until 1971 that Congress passed the Lead Based Poisoning Prevention Act (“LBPPA”) restricting residential use of lead paint and banning its use on toys and children’s furniture. LBPPA did not, however, restrict the use of lead in marine paint, farm equipment paint, automobile paints and industrial finishes.
Finally, in 1978 the Consumer Products Safety Commission issued a ban against the use of lead-based paints in homes. Despite this fact, however the National Safety Council estimates that some 38 million homes still contain lead-based paint and approximately 25% of all U.S. homes contain some type of lead hazard. The legacy of nearly two centuries of lead usage is the potential for significant exposure to this product by children and adults.