Brush with lead poison - day 2: Home improvement industry must be part of solution

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Mon, 05/22/2006 - 07:44.

"Ask Sherwin Williams" for a lead test kit? No! They do not carry lead testing kits at their many stores, despite being a source of the majority of the lead paint found on homes in America today, and despite the fact they now sell home improvement supplies to people who will disturb old lead-based Sherwin Williams paint, lead poisoning themselves and their families.

Ask Home Depot! They sell lead testing kits.

I've been troubled - overall rates of lead poisoning have been declining since the 1970s, when lead was outlawed from gas and then household paint, and average I.Q.s have risen as a result, yet incidences of serious lead poisoning effects like brain damage, and perhaps ADHD and even Autism, are seemingly more commonplace than every in middle-America. What would cause spikes in severe lead poisoning issues, rather than broad overall declines? Are people committing mental suicide?

Yes, that's what 1,000,000s of home handipeople, restorers, repairers and refinishers do each year, as they run off to the neighborhood home improvement center - increasingly just a department in a mindless bigbox - and purchase dangerous solvents and highly abrasive tools that disturb heavy metals in paint on old homes and furniture, and they spread that around their homes, gardens and nursuries, track that through their private quarters, distribute it among toys and toiletries, and serve it to their families. Whether fixing up the nursury or planting herbs in the back yard, our nesting, HGTV, Martha Stewert meets Home Depot lifestyle is more mind-numbing than the networks broadcasting this dangerous trend.

When I realized that the blood test results for lead poisoning of my one-year son are not adequate to disprove if my son has low levels of lead in his blood - between 0 and 3 micrograms per deciliter - I took a hard look at his environment and found many possible sources of lead poisoning, from the old painted rocker in the nursury to the old painted chairs in the living room, to the dust around the well maintained but slightly cracking window frames and sills throughout the apartment, to the poorly maintained garage in the back yard of my "Shaker Certified" historic dublex apartment house.

Red coloration indicates lead is present at a level that can leach from the paint - chipping poses additional hazard that paint will be ingested by babies, who tend to chew on wood furniture. Powersanding this chair would spread a dangerous dose of lead throughout a house, requiring "supercleaning".

It's certainly not supposed to be this way - the home improvement industry is neglecting its responsibility to protect customers from public nuisances, making this relatively new industry as culpable for harm inflicted in the home due to lack of precautions, as the lead and paint industries are for perpetuation of the problem beyond reasonable doubt it was dangerous - and we have a whole new kind of lead poisoning crisis in America than one would ever have expected for 2006.

The term silent killer couldn't be more applicable than for lead poisoning. Lead lurks in your home - your grandmother's home - daycare and church - your old rocker - dust in the garden or window sills - and you and your chldren breathe, eat and drink it. It then silently kills the brain and nervous system, impacts your reproduction, and could be related to ADD and other heavy ailments... a good quick overview is found at Dr. Green's "Caring for the next generation" on Lead Poisoning..., and throughout the Greater Cleaveland Lead Advisory Council (GCLAC) area of this site.

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Correlation != Causation

    overall rates of lead poisoning have been declining since the 1970s, when lead was outlawed from gas and then household paint, and average I.Q.s have risen as a result


I've seen studies showing lead paint affects IQ, but was there one showing that banning lead actually caused IQ to increase?

Yep, IQs rising

Dr. Lanphear presented a talk at the City Club where he discussed that there are no safe levels of lead in blood (no normal minimum baseline, which they say is 3 micrograms per deciliter), and the level where they say we should be alarmed is too high - 10 micrograms per deciliter.  Further, he showed a graph of overall average IQ increasing in America over the time period since lead was outlawed. Most of that would be attributable to eliminating lead in gas and the sprawl since lead paint was outlawed, where many communties are now post78. For those pre78, like Shaker Heights, much more must be done to test, educate and eradicate, aas many are slumbering in danger (and probably 100s of Shaker residents will hit blood lead levels over 10 micrograms per deciliter, whether they know or not). Even if the basedline lead dust level in these communities is just a bit high, but under the current radar, that could account for a loss of competitiveness for residents, for life - in large communities like Cleveland, and Shaker, that may cause pre78 economies to lag post78 economies, even as near as Beachwood.