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Lead Safety

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is lead?

Lead is a bluish-gray soft metallic element used in many household and industrial items such as paint, brass fixtures, batteries, and fine crystal.

Q. Why is lead dangerous?
The effects of lead-poisoning on children can be devastating. Just 10 micrograms of lead per day (the equivalent of 3 grains of sugar) can place a child in danger. Irreversible learning disabilities as well as lowered intelligence are the usual result. Lead poisoning occurs when lead has been introduced into the bloodstream by ingestion and inhalation of lead dust or fumes. Our bodies cannot distinguish lead from other minerals, like iron and calcium, which our bodies actually need, and sends it directly to vital organs. Lead is then deposited in these organs as well as our brain and bone marrow. Women of childbearing age and children under the age of six are considered to be at the highest risk. Pregnant women are at a high risk for lead poisoning because any lead that they are exposed to transfers directly to the unborn baby. The main reason for this is the way a child's body assimilates lead (thinking it is a vital nutrient). In addition, children (both unborn and born) have bodies which are still developing, and a low body weight. In addition, small children have a high rate of hand/toy-to-mouth contact.

Q. How does lead get from the paint into my child? Children can get lead poisoning by the following for example:

  • Putting hands or toys with lead dust on them in their mouth or inhaling lead dust
  • Eating lead paint chips that peel off the wall, chewing on windows sills, door frames or any other lead painted surface

Q. Should my child be screened for lead poisoning?
If you live in a home built before 1978, your children should be tested. Children between the ages of nine months through five years are at the greatest risk for lead poisoning. Children with lead poisoning might show any signs of illness. Ask your healthcare provider to perform a blood test on your children to screen for lead in their blood. Most children will have a test result below 10 ug/dl (micrograms per deciliter), of lead in their blood and ask the healthcare provider to explain the results. If you or your doctor has questions about the results, you should contact the Wayne County Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services.

Q. Where can I get my child and/or myself tested, and how much would it cost?
Contact your private healthcare provider to arrange a lead screening for your child and find out if there is a cost. Some private insurance policies cover the cost blood-lead level test. Children covered by Medicaid are eligible for free screening as well as children enrolled in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program.

Q. What is considered "lead-poisoned"?
No safe blood lead level
in children has been identified. Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead replaces the calcium and/or iron in the blood's hemoglobin. Lead can be stored in tissue and bones for several years and may reach a toxic level later in life.Children with blood lead levels of 5 ug/dL or greater require medical management to lower the blood lead level, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Medical management includes family education about lead exposure prevention, assistance in identifying sources of lead exposure, and requesting an environmental investigation. For more information, please contact us or your healthcare provider.

Q. What are some of the medical problems that can occur as a result of lead poisoning?

Children with high levels of lead in their bodies may result from the following:

  • Injury to the brain and nervous system,
  • Behavior and learning problems,
  • Slowed growth,
  • Hearing problems, and
  • Headaches.
  • Hyperactivity
One in six children in our country have unsafe blood-lead levels, one in eleven have dangerous blood-lead levels. Over 1.7 million children now have blood-lead levels above safe limits, mostly due to exposure to lead-based paint hazards. Women may suffer from difficulties during pregnancy, other reproductive problems (both men and women), high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. Additional problems which may result from lead poisoning include the following:
  • Nausea
  • Wrist or foot drop
  • Anorexia
  • Anemia
  • Seizures
  • Colic
  • Convulsions
  • T remors
  • Miscarriage
  • Moodiness

Q. Is there a cure for lead poisoning?
No, but the progressive damage can be curbed drastically. The most crucial treatment for lead-poisoning is to stop the exposure. Removing the lead from a person's environment helps to ensure a decline in blood-lead levels. The longer a person is exposed to lead, the greater the likelihood that damage to the person's health will result. In some cases, medications are used to lower blood-lead levels.

Q. How can a lead-based paint problem be remediated?
It is strongly not recommended that the average homeowner or untrained contractor attempt to correct a lead-based paint problem since it is very easy to make the problem worse instead of better. In too many cases, lead poisoning is a result of an inexperienced person attempting to remodel a home or abate a lead problem.

There are four primary methods of lead hazard remediation*:

  • Replacement - At times, it is less labor extensive and most cost effective to replace old doors, windows, trim, and other woodwork with new materials. The lead hazardous items should be wrapped in heavy plastic and kept away from children, and properly discarded.
  • Encapsulation- Wood, vinyl, aluminum, tile, stone, plaster, and special coatings are some of the products used to cover lead paint. Encapsulates can be used on exterior as well as interior areas.
  • Removal- Each of the paint-removal methods (sanding, scraping, chemical stripping, sandblasting, heat guns) can produce lead fumes and dust.
  • Interim Controls- Examples of interim controls are specialized cleaning, coating lead hazards with house paint, laying garden mulch or landscape fabric, and planting grass.
**It is strongly recommended that you have credentialed professionals trained in the removal of lead-based paint to perform these tasks. Performing repairs involving lead paint without training and proper project containment can further poison your child. Click on link below for important information on best practices for Do-it-yourselfers.

Don't Spread Lead Document

Q. What is the Healthy Homes Program?

The purpose of Healthy Homes is to improve health outcomes of young children by reducing housing-related risks of illness, injury or death. Additional funding has been allocated for families enrolled in the LeadSafe program for home repairs to assist with health and safety issues of the residence. Home repairs related to health and safety hazards in the home may be covered under the Healthy Homes program. For example: mold, asthma or allergy triggers, radon, roof leaks, pest control, loose handrails, defective stairs, and carbon monoxide. Participants in the Healthy Homes program must be first enrolled in the LeadSafe program.

Contact Us

Wayne County Department of Health, Human and Veterans Services
Health Administration Building- East Wing Entrance

Environmental Health Section
Health Administration Building - East Wing
33030 Van Born Rd.
Wayne, MI 48184

Phone: 734-727-7400
Fax: 734-727-7165

Mon-Fri: 8:00am - 4:00pm for counter service
Closed for lunch: 11:30am-12:30pm