Interestingly enough, lead as an element can be found free in nature and has been used by humans for centuries. The ancient Romans used lead to make water pipes. However, what we found out centuries later is the correlation between lead and toxic symptoms. It wasn’t until the mid 20th Century that science recognized the correlation between illnesses and lead poisoning. Lead is a cumulative poison and it is rumored that the decline of the Roman empire has, in part, been attributed to lead in the water supply.

You may have heard of lead based paint or lead painted toys being recalled in the news. According to the Centers for Disease control and prevention, today at least 4 million U.S. households have children that are being exposed to high levels of lead. In addition, there are an estimated 24 million homes in the U.S. that Contain deteriorated lead-based paint.


It has been established that lead is bad for you. That still leaves a lot of unanswered questions. Why is lead bad for you? What are the symptoms of lead poisoning? What are the long term health problems associated with lead? Who is the most susceptible to lead? Lastly, How do you deal with lead in your home?

Although lead is no longer used in paint it can be found in millions of homes across the United States that were built before 1978. It wasn’t until the 1960s that the correlation between lead and health issues was just beginning to be discovered. Lead is toxic when swallowed, inhaled  or eaten. It is most commonly found in the paint in older homes, contaminated soil, drinking water, lead crystal, lead-glazed pottery and household dust.

According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences adults with low lead levels display symptoms such as decreased kidney function, increased blood pressure, hypertension, essential tremors, degenerative disorder of the central nervous system have been reported. In adults with high lead exposure lead has been linked to cardiovascular effects, nerve disorders, decreased kidney function, fertility problems, lower sperm counts and mortality.

In children, the effects of lead can be even more devastating. High levels of lead in children have been linked to attacks on the central nervous system and brain that can lead to coma, convulsions and even death. Children surviving lead poisoning may suffer from mental retardation and behavioral disruption. Children with low levels of lead in their blood display problems with brain development, behavioral changes such as a shortened attention span and much more. Children under the age of 6 years are the most likely to be affected by lead.

According to the World Health Organization there are 600,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year that can be linked to lead poisoning. Worldwide about 143,000 deaths per year can be associated with lead poisoning with the highest burden in the developing regions.

The United States Environmental Protection Agencies Office of Pollution Prevention and Toxics came out with a brochure to assist home owners with how to reduce lead hazards when remodeling your home. If you are thinking about renovating a home built before 1978, I highly recommend that you read further into the proper procedures for renovating, if for no other reason than to protect you and your family from any harmful health related side effects from a simple bathroom remodel or even carpet replacement. Remember, lead can be inhaled just from demolition work and the smallest lead dust particles cannot be seen but they can get into your body. You do not need to be exposed to high levels of lead to show symptoms. Individuals with only low levels of lead can still have symptoms. This doesn’t mean you can’t do the work yourself but you should follow all of the safety guidelines. Some of those guidelines include using high-efficiency particulate HEPA vacuum cleaner, use a NIOSH-certified respirator that is fitted with HEPA filters, wearing protective clothing, using plastic sheeting that is made of polyethylene and is 6 mils thick taped down with duct tape and turn off your air conditioning systems just to name a few of their safety recommendations. Below is an image from the brochure with a few more of their safety guidelines.


Lead poisoning can be treated if it hasn’t escalated to a severe level in which case the damage caused by the lead may not be reversible. According to the Mayo Clinic, light poisoning will be treated through Chelation therapy which is a medication that binds with the lead so that it’s excreted in your urine. For more serious cases EDTA therapy may be necessary and depending on the amount of lead in your system multiple treatments may be necessary.

Knowledge is the best way to protect yourself and your family from lead poisoning. Use the resources I have provided in this blog if you are purchasing a home built before 1978 and want to know more about how to protect yourself and what to look for when purchasing a home. In addition, please refer to HUD’s brochure that I referenced earlier “Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home” if you or a contractor is about to do any work on your home that is built before 1977.

Now you know, and knowing is half the battle. Here’s to your happy and healthy remodel!