“Get The Lead Out” for Beacon Media Newspapers

Despite laws about lead paint in homes, many residents may be living with a health risk.

February 2008

Lead has been the latest health scare, mainly resulting from toys and items from China that contain lead paint.

Another lead culprit that may go overlooked that is just as common and dangerous is the presence of lead in house paint.

A law passed in 1978 prohibits the use of lead paint in residential buildings. However, lead is still found in homes and the amount of historically designated homes in the San Gabriel Valley—some built long before 1978—creates the need for consumer and owner education.

“I don’t think people are aware that there’s such a big problem with lead,” said Silverlake Research Corporation director of research and development Mark Geisberg, whose company develops and sells lead test kits. “It’s extremely common, especially in older homes.”

Children are most affected by lead poisoning, which the California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch (CLPPB), a division of the Department of Health Services, said can “harm a child’s nervous system and brain when they are still forming and lead to anemia, a low blood count. Small amounts of lead in the body can make it hard for children to learn, pay attention, and succeed in school. Higher amounts of lead exposure can damage the nervous system, kidneys, and other major organs. Very high exposure can lead to seizures or death.”

The EPA said adults can suffer from difficulties during pregnancy, other reproductive problems (in men and women), high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems and muscle and joint pain.

Since children with dangerous lead amounts in their body may appear healthy, the CLPPB said the only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is for the child to get a blood test for lead.

According to the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP), part of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, children age nine months through five years are at greatest risk for lead poisoning.

Most children get lead poisoned from ingesting deteriorating lead paint in homes built before 1978 or from ingesting soil containing lead from gasoline residue,” said the CLPPP.

Dust from repairs or renovations on lead-based paint is also a danger and can accumulate in the home and settle on toys, fingers and other things children put in their mouths.

“Homes built before 1978 would probably be the majority of homes in Monrovia,” said official Monrovia historian Steve Baker, who has heard of people coming across lead paint. “Of the landmarked homes, the vast majority have had restoration of some kind, interior or exterior.”

In 2002, the government settled a case against two Los Angeles-based property-management companies that failed to inform tenants about potential lead hazards in over 4500 apartments. One of the properties, owned by SK Management Company, LLC, was in Monrovia.

These companies were in violation of the Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act of 1992 that requires property owners to notify potential buyers about the presence of lead.

Many homeowners may not be aware of lead paint in their household if the previous owner was dishonest or uninformed about the problem, but certain resources can quickly and inexpensively detect lead in paint or pipes.

Silverlake Research Corporation in Monrovia developed inexpensive do-it-yourself test kits that for $14.95 detect the presence of lead paint in five minutes and for $9.95 detect lead in water in ten minutes.

“Our tests are extremely accurate; in many cases as accurate as a lab,” said Geisberg. “The difference is a lab will give you a number of the lead concentration and our tests tell you whether you are above or below the safety level but they do not necessarily give you a number.”

The EPA also believes that commercially available kits are effective at ruling out whether lead-based paint is present.

Test kits are available at Silverlake’s website, discovertesting.com, and at retailers like Whole Foods Market.

Should a test kit show positive results for lead, Geisberg recommended calling an inspector who can tell a homeowner where the lead is specifically and how to remove it.

According to the CLPPP, U.S. Housing and Urban Development regulations require that public housing built before 1978 is tested for lead paint by the local housing authority so homeowners can also call their local housing authority to see if their residence has been tested.

For more information regarding lead effects, testing, removal and more, log on to:

California Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Branch: http://www.dhs.ca.gov/childlead/html/clppb.html

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program: http://www.lapublichealth.org/lead/index.htm

Environmental Protection Agency: http://www.epa.gov/lead/

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