Anyone well-versed in lead?
July 24, 2007 1:40 PM   Subscribe

Received phone call from doctor that in course of 1 yr. checkup, child has elevated (but not immediate risk) lead levels. Advice/next steps?

Our house was built in 1911 in downtown Minneapolis. We've repainted most rooms in our seven years there thusfar, but certainly there could be issues there, or in the dirt, or we could have a water issue. The .gov site seems to disclaim test kits as faulty... advice? Ready to install or do whatever's necessary.
posted by Arch1 to Health & Fitness (14 answers total)
The NSC site's page on lead seems comprehensive (if you've not read it already).
posted by BrotherCaine at 2:05 PM on July 24, 2007

water filters for various pollutants/ contaminants
posted by ohdeanna at 2:23 PM on July 24, 2007

The danger from lead paint is that it flakes when old (like most paint), and that lead oxide is *tasty* sweet, so kids eat it. You would know if this was likely to be a problem in your environment, because there would be paint chips.

I would look for other sources (not paint) if you are going to try to keep your child from ingesting more lead.
posted by janell at 2:31 PM on July 24, 2007

At one point I was learning a lot about lead abatement and my memory is that, after old paint was dealt with, most household lead comes through water lines, specifically from pipes that had been soldered with lead solder which is now leaching into the tapwater. I believe there are reliable kits out there, can't give you any specific recommendations though. Just google for lead water testing kits.

Just in case, you might want to switch to bottled water til you've got it sorted out. And obviously you should get chelation treatment for your child if your doctor recommends it.
posted by jasper411 at 2:35 PM on July 24, 2007

A few questions:

-Is there peeling, alligatoring or flaking paint anywhere in or on the house?
-Do you have the original windows still?
-While you were pregnant or while your child was in the house, did you strip any paint off of wood or cut up any walls for renovation? Any demo?

Try to find the source of lead or this can seriously drive you crazy. (I speak from experience.) Then, you can devise a plan to contain the problem.

We installed an under the counter water filter that filters out lead (not all of them do). We also have procedures for dealing with windows and external paint and renovation work and cleaning in the house.

This issue is more common than most folks let on. Lead was not banned from paint until 1978. So, if you have a house built before 1978, there is a chance that you have lead paint.

I've been writing up our experiences about working with lead paint on our own house. Sorry for the self link, but it would take WAY too much space to re-post everything from there to here. (Moderators: If I have stepped over the line, please feel free to delete my comment.)
posted by jeanmari at 2:51 PM on July 24, 2007

Seconding a switch to bottled water for the whole family until this is sorted.

Another possibility is *how* you went about the painting; did you sand the old paint first? If so, you may have introduced significant quantities of lead into the air from the old paint, now in easy-to-ingest powered form!

By the way, yay doctor for checking such things; I don't know if that's typical, but I'm going to follow up with my doc and find out.
posted by davejay at 3:17 PM on July 24, 2007

Minneapolis has a lead posining program as part of their public health department. I'd start
My mom worked for a county lead program and they had an entire staff dedicated to helping people figure this stuff out.
posted by Wolfie at 3:35 PM on July 24, 2007

My niece had very high lead levels when she was a baby. She was told to eat lots of lima beans, as they are one of the foods that help fight lead poisoning.

The county came out to check out their home and did not find anything. She was retested a few times and her levels were normal. The best they can figure is that it was a one-time exposure related to some renovations in their older home.

So if you did anything at all to the walls, even just drilling some holes, it might have kicked up enough dust for her to test high, but probably not enough to do any real damage. My niece is A-OK now and I'm sure you little one will be too.
posted by jrossi4r at 4:09 PM on July 24, 2007

Some of the most common sites for lead paint in old homes include trim around doors and windowsills. Although I second contacting your local lead paint experts, I think that doing a home test in the meantime might help you find problem spots. If you do this, sketch out each room and keep track of the spots you test and whether they come up as positive or negative.

You say that you have painted, but did you use paint/primer that was specially formulated to encapsulate the lead and keep it from bleeding through? Aramsco used to make a pretty good encapsulation paint -- expensive, but worth it (especially as it includes a special component to make it taste bitter).

Your doc probably told you this, but make sure that you wash your child's hands frequently, and especially before meals and snacks. Additional precautions include frequent vacuuming (with a good filter) and running air filters, as lead dust can carry throughout the house.

Good luck. Hope the next report comes back with lower levels.
posted by MonkeyToes at 4:11 PM on July 24, 2007

Check your child's toys and look for "Made in China". Have everything that's made in China tested for lead if it hasn't been recalled already. There have been a lot of recalls of Chinese-made lead-contaminated toys in the last few months.
posted by evariste at 5:53 PM on July 24, 2007

Before you drive yourself too crazy, have your child retested. It's not uncommon for a bloodtest for lead to give a false positive.

My sister had a scare after my niece's test came back with high levels of lead, but a followup done the next week came up with levels that were perfectly normal. Her pediatrician said that this was not that unusual.
posted by notbuddha at 7:17 PM on July 24, 2007

Janell, old paint also forms a dust at times instead of obvious flakes, especially if a prior tenant sanded or drilled the walls. I just remember a family that had lead poisoning problems related to aromatherapy candles of all things.
posted by BrotherCaine at 8:26 PM on July 24, 2007

Are you growing vegetables in your yard? If so get the soil tested and yourself and your husband too.
posted by fshgrl at 9:08 PM on July 24, 2007

Thanks for the links and notes, everyone. Having the water and some paint tested (through the city-- thanks, Wolfie!) and selecting water filters today (thanks BCaine and ohdeanna!).

Luckily, the little one has been eating pristinely, and we've set up a follow up test to see if this is a spike or a false positive.
posted by Arch1 at 7:57 AM on July 25, 2007

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