Lead at home? Yes, even in 2021!

The negative health impacts of lead exposure are well known — ranging from developmental and neurological delays, cancer, miscarriage, and reproductive disorders. 

Even the smallest exposure to lead can impair brain function in children, which is why the Centers for Disease Control and World Health Organization declared in 2012 that there is no safe level of lead in children’s blood. 

Lead is common in older buildings, which means Oregonians are still at risk of lead exposure from their indoor environments – even in 2021! In fact, nearly half of childhood lead poisoning in Oregon comes from remodeling or repainting.

Lead was used in house paint before 1978, water pipes before 1986, and leaded solder in plumbing before 1988.  

In fact, lead exposure is such a public health hazard, that Oregon Health Authority (OHA) proposed House Bill 2077 this legislative session to be able to compel building owners to perform lead-based paint inspections, risk assessments, hazard control or abatement service during renovation activities. OHA can also issue a stop-work order in a building, if necessary. HB 2077 would add statutory authority for OHA to compel cleanup of a lead-contaminated site when the agency has determined that a property owner has violated lead-based paint requirements (ORS 431A.358). And it provides for much needed enforcement/civil penalties against violators.

Toxic chemical exposure and lead poisoning must be taken seriously, and OEC strongly supports HB 2077.  

But don’t wait for new guidance from the state on protecting your family from lead. There are simple steps you can take around the home to protect yourself and your family from lead exposure:

Around the house:

  • Commit to regular monitoring for chips and cracks around doors and windows indoors and outdoors.
  • Use a wet mop or sponge to clean floors and around windows every week.
  • Always clean up paint chips (indoors and out).
  • If you find wear, repaint walls with a fresh coat of low- or no-VOC paint. Do not disturb existing paint!
  • Consult a professional before disturbing paint by sanding or scraping.
  • If you know you need lead abatement services for a remodel project or home renovation, please visit OHA’s lead abatement website for a list of licensed/certified abatement firms.

Your water:

  • If your home is older than 1986 and you are unsure if you have lead pipes, run your faucet for 15-30 seconds until water is noticeably cooler before using water for drinking or cooking.
  • Use only cold water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Lead dissolves more easily in hot water.

For more information on lead in Oregon’s drinking water, read our primer here.

Children and toys:

  • Look at the ingredients and warning labels in things like children’s paint kits. Many children’s products still contain lead (which is one of the focal points of our Toxic-Free Kids Act).
  • Get rid of cheap metal or plastic painted costume jewelry. For additional information on lead in toys, visit the CDC Lead website. Children are exposed to lead when they put these toys or jewelry in their mouths.
  • Test paint that may contain lead. Testing kits can be found at your local hardware store.
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