Lead Poison Prevention

Healthy Aroostook is serious about preventing lead poisoning to you or family members in your home. Below are some helpful tips on how to prevent lead poisoning, how to keep your family safe, and a list of local lead-safe renovators in Aroostook County.

Childhood Lead Prevention and Testing Kids for LeadHealthy Aroostook Lead Poison Prevention Resources

Has your child been tested for lead poisoning? Most parents are only vaguely aware that lead poisoning is a health concern for young children, even though it persists as a health concern for Maine children.

So, who should be concerned about lead poisoning?
Children at risk are those under age 6 who live or spend time in homes or buildings built before 1978. But, the risk is much greater for young children who live in housing that was built before 1950. Houses built before 1950 usually have lead paint. If a home contains lead paint, normal wear and tear or renovations may produce lead dust. Lead dust can remain in a home for a long time, collecting on surfaces where children put their hands and play with toys. Then, when children put their hands and toys in their mouths, lead dust can get into and damage their growing bodies.

Lead poisoning can cause serious, long-term health effects such as behavior problems, learning disabilities, speech and language delays and lower intelligence. If you are a parent of a young child and you live in home built before 1978, you should talk to your child’s doctor about getting a lead test. In fact, MaineCare requires all children be tested at 1 and 2 years. Children ages 3 to 6 years should be tested if they have not been tested before, the family has recently moved to, or done repairs or painting in, an older home. Other children at risk include those with developmental or behavioral issues and children who often swallow things that are not food or who chew on window sills.

Your child’s doctor can determine if your child is at risk, but you should ask for a test if you think your child needs to be tested. After you have the test done, follow-up with your child’s doctor to get the results—if the results show a lot of lead, there are things you can do to help your child. You can also call 1-866-292-3474 to speak to a nurse at the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention to find out more about testing children for lead.

The bottom line: If your home was built before 1950, assume there is lead in it. Get your child tested for lead poisoning and learn how to live safely with lead paint to keep your family healthy.

The MeCDC has tipsheets for parents about lead testing and living safely with lead paint at www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.

To find more about how to keep your child safe from lead, visit the Childhood Lead Poisoning website to learn more.

Living Lead-Safe in Older Homes

Is the paint in your home a risk to your children?
Many parents are unaware of the lead paint danger that may be lurking in their home. That’s why you need to know the year your home was built, so you can make informed decisions to protect your children from lead poisoning.

Lead paint is generally found in homes built before 1978. But, Maine children are up to three times more likely to be exposed to lead if they live in housing that was built before 1950. If a home contains lead paint, normal wear and tear or home renovations may produce lead dust. By far, lead dust is the most common way children are poisoned by lead. Each year, nearly 120 of Maine’s children are poisoned by lead.

Lead dust can remain in a home for a long time, collecting on surfaces where children put their hands and play with toys. Then, when children put their hands and toys in their mouths, lead dust can get into and damage their growing bodies. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, hearing damage, language or speech delays and lower intelligence.

You can assume that your home has lead paint if it was built before 1950 and that means you need to do the following six things to live safely with lead paint.

  1.   Regularly clean floors, windowsills and tabletops with a wet mop or cloth.
  2.   Always wash children’s hands after play and before meals, naps and bedtime.
  3.   Frequently wipe down toys, clean stuffed animals and wash bottles or pacifiers.
  4.   Routinely check painted windows, doors and floors for peeling or chipping paint.
  5.   Ask your child’s doctor about a blood lead test.
  6.   Learn how to renovate, repair and paint safely before beginning any home improvement projects.

If you are not sure how old your home is, you can ask your landlord or call your town office. If you want to find the exact locations of lead paint, you can test for lead using these recommended methods:

  •   Home Test Kits – For sale at hardware stores, these tests only tell you if there is lead on the surface. They will not tell you if there is lead paint covered by a layer of non-leaded paint. Home test kits are not expensive and are useful for testing painted wood that is already chipped or damaged.
  •   Lead Dust Wipes – This method can test for lead dust on floors and window sills. Lead dust test kits are available from the State Health and Environmental Testing Lab at 287-8014.
  •   Hire a Lead Expert – Special equipment allows lead experts to measure lead in paint, even if it is covered by layers of newer non-leaded paint. Get a list by calling 287-2651 or visiting www.maine.gov/healthyhomes. Click on the “homeowners” link.

The bottom line: If your home was built before 1950, assume there is lead in it. Keep it clean and maintain the paint. If you are planning renovations on any house built before 1978, either hire a certified contractor, or if you are going to do it yourself test it for lead.

Once you know if you have lead in your home, you can make smart decisions about cleaning, home improvements and keeping your children safe.

The MeCDC has tipsheets for parents and homeowners about lead testing and cleaning up lead in your home at  www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.

NEW! To find more about how to renovate, repair, paint, and do other home projects safely with lead paint, visit the Homeowners Guide to Lead Poisoning on the Maine.gov website.

Lead-Free Property Management Tips

Unit Turnover is Key to Lead Safety
What if someone told you there were four easy steps you could take during unit turnover to protect the health of your tenants, increase your marketing edge and reduce your liability? When it comes to lead in your units, it’s true. There are simple maintenance practices that you can easily do to help prevent lead poisoning, make your property stand out and protect yourself from legal trouble resulting from lead poisonings.

Half of all children poisoned by lead in Maine live in rental units. By far, lead dust is the most common way children are poisoned by lead. Lead dust comes from lead paint that was used in most homes built before 1950, and in some homes built between 1951 and 1978.

So, when you get the lead dust out of your units, you can help protect your tenants, especially small children, from lead poisoning. An added bonus: if you remove lead from your properties, you can advertise vacancies as lead-safe, showing your commitment to tenant health and safety. And, by definition a unit that is lead-safe is well-maintained. This can make your property more appealing to prospective renters. In addition, good faith efforts to address lead hazards may help you avoid expensive abatement procedures if one of your tenants is poisoned.

Unit turnover is a great time to address lead because of easy access to property. Further, working on empty units makes cleaning up from maintenance easier and safer. If there are no tenants, there are no people to expose to lead dust created by any repairs or renovations.

Before you start to get the lead out of your property, here are a few things you should know:

  1.   Paint in good repair is generally safe. But lead paint can turn into lead dust from normal wear.
  2.   Proper maintenance, cleaning and lead dust testing can help prevent a lead hazard.
  3.   Take a class to better understand lead-safe work methods. Visit the Lead Training Courses website to find a class near you.

In between tenants, follow these steps to make your properties lead-safe.

  1. Look for peeling and chipping paint every six months.
  2. Carefully repair all damaged paint surfaces or potentially hazardous areas.
  3. Identify and address any underlying problems, such as moisture or water damage.
  4. Thoroughly clean the unit to remove any lead dust from repairs.

Getting the lead out of rental units is in your best interest as a landlord. It only takes a few simple steps—a small price for a big return. Tipsheets for landlords about maintenance, cleaning and lead dust testing best practices are available at www.maine.gov/healthyhomes.

To find more about how to renovate, repair, and paint safely with lead paint, visit the Landlords, Property Managers, and Renters Guide to Lead Poisoning on the Maine.gov website.