Young children are most susceptible to lead poisoning so it’s a bit worrisome that 38 million dwellings in the U.S. contain lead-based paint. Flaking and decaying paint in homes built before 1978 when paint containing lead was banned poses a hazard to occupants, especially when it’s disturbed during a renovation. It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week and the Environmental Protection Agency is recommending three simple things you can do to keep your kids safe.
"Lead poisoning can have life-altering health effects, especially on our children. But it is entirely preventable if we take the right steps to protect our children in all the places where they live, learn and play," EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in an agency press release. Here’s what she recommends:
Get your home tested. Have your home inspected if it was built before 1978.
Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead.
Get the facts. Visit leadfreekids.org or call 1-800-424-LEAD.
Consumer Reports tested home lead kits and found that some were easier to use than others. Some kits can be used as a reasonable first step in detecting lead, as long as you follow instructions precisely. We had luck with two different types of tests—Sodium-sulfide "cotton tip" swabs and Rhodizonate cigarette-style swabs. The EPA also has some recommended lead test kits on its website. Here are reviews of four kits in our tests:
Sodium-sulfide "cotton tip" swabs
Abotex Lead Inspector Lead Test Kit. Shows faint positive reaction as low as 600 parts per million. Don't use on dark paint. Smelly. If other toxic metals are present, could get false readings. Small type makes directions hard to read.
First Alert Premium Lead Test Kit LT1. Shows positive reaction as low as 600 ppm. Don't use on dark paint. Smelly. If other toxic metals are present, could get false readings.
Rhodizonate cigarette-style swabs
Homax LeadCheck 5250 Test Kit. Shows faint positive reaction as low as 300 ppm. Can be used on dark paint but not on red or pink paint. Sulfates in gypsum, stucco and plaster can interfere with readings. Requires hand strength.
SKC LeadCheck Instant 225-2404 Sampling Test Kit. Shows faint positive reaction as low as 300 ppm. Can be used on dark paint but not on red or pink paint. Sulfates in gypsum, stucco and plaster can interfere with readings. Requires hand strength.
If you find lead in your home, you should confirm the findings by having a professional inspection. And if you are planning a renovation, you should know that any professional you hire must follow the EPA’s Lead Renovation, Repair, and Painting Rule. The rules involve containing the work area, using methods that do not generate lead dust and cleaning up properly afterwards.
—Mary H.J. Farrell