Home Renovations by Affluent Families Can Unleash Lead Threat

Much of the work involves older homes, but lead paint wasn't banned until 1978

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THURSDAY, Jan. 29, 2009 (HealthDay News) -- Home renovations, repairs and painting can lead to elevated lead levels in children and are changing the dynamics of lead-poisoning risk among children, according to a new U.S. study.

Previously, poor and minority children were at higher risk for lead poisoning than white children. Much of those disparities have been reduced after more than two decades of efforts to control and eliminate lead paint hazards in multi-family rental units in cities, the report said.

Now, however, an increasing number of more affluent families and their children are being exposed to lead through home renovations, repairs and painting.

No level of lead is considered safe. Blood lead levels (BLLs) of more than 10 ug/dL are associated with behavioral and developmental problems. Environmental and medical intervention is recommended when a child's BLL is more than 20 ug/dL, according to the study.

A 1993-94 assessment of lead exposure sources in New York state -- excluding New York City -- found that home renovations, repairs and painting were major sources of lead exposure among children with blood lead levels of more than 20 ug/dL.

This prompted local health departments in the state to routinely gather information about renovation-repair-painting activities when investigating children's homes for lead sources.

In 1993-94, renovation-repair-painting (RRP) activities were found in 320 of the 4,608 (6.9 percent) of cases where children's blood lead levels were more than 20 ug/dL. But by 2006-07, renovation-repair-painting activities were found in 139 of 972 such cases, or 14 percent.

"RRP activities continued to be an important source of lead exposure during 2006-2007," the study authors wrote. "Children living in housing built before 1978 (when lead-based paint was banned from residential use) that are undergoing RRP activities should be considered at high risk for elevated BLLs (blood lead levels), and appropriate precautions should be taken to prevent exposure."

The study was published in the Jan. 29 issue of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report

More information

The CDC has more about childhood lead exposure.

SOURCE: U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, Jan. 29, 2009


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