Fresh Air or Lead Dust?

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The Chautauqua County Health Department is Urging People to Protect Children from the Hazard of Lead Paint

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Chautauqua County Health Department

You may be anxious to open the windows and get some fresh spring air, but before you do, Chautauqua County Health Department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Team suggests using caution.

“Opening and closing old windows can create nearly invisible lead paint dust” explains Lead and Healthy Homes Program Coordinator Anna Powell, “and it takes just a tiny bit of this dust to potentially poison a young child.”

In a typical year, about 80-85 children in Chautauqua County test positive for unsafe levels of lead in their bloodstream. Old windows are one of the most common places kids are exposed to lead.

“It’s so common to see toddlers pulling themselves up by a windowsill, or playing on the floor near windows. They get lead-contaminated dust on their hands and toys, put hands or toys in their mouths, and that’s all it takes to raise their blood lead levels,” explains Powell.

Exposure to even tiny amounts of lead in early childhood can result in loss of IQ points, learning difficulties, and behavior issues. At higher levels, these issues can be more severe, and a child may be physically ill as well. Extreme exposure can result in coma or even death. Damage caused by lead is considered to be irreversible.

Doors, stairs, and porches – considered friction surfaces – are other common sources of exposure to lead dust in area homes. Lead paint was not banned for residential use until 1978, meaning that many homes in the County may be at risk.

“Many people’s first instinct is to start sweeping or vacuuming, but that can spread lead dust further around the home,” says Ms. Powell. “We recommend a wet-wiping method for cleaning lead paint dust. Use wet paper towels to pat down the area, which will pick up the lead-contaminated dust. Dispose of the paper towels as you work – don’t try to re-use them.”

Chautauqua County Health Department Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program will check any home free of charge in the County for lead where a child under age six spends at least 6 hours per week. The program provides free cleaning supplies and the training and materials to eliminate or control lead paint risks. There may also be grant programs to assist property owners with necessary repairs. Call 716-753-4489 for more information or to schedule a lead risk assessment.