Lead Poisoning is an issue that I had the opportunity to research years ago while working as a community organizer and environmental justice advocate in Baltimore. It is still a hot topic that is near and dear to my heart. Many for the sake of convenience, the lack of knowledge or just plain defiance will continue to ignore their role in properly addressing the issue. A recent exchange with a colleague prompted me to pen the following top 10 myths about Lead Poisoning in Baltimore:
- Myth #10 – Lead isn’t an issue anymore. Companies stopped putting lead in paint years ago. Thanks to the advocacy of parents, health providers and professionals the government banned the use of lead in paint and gasoline during the 1970s. Unfortunately, cities like Baltimore have older housing stock that have lead-based paint in the interior and exterior of the houses. Because the old lead paint was never removed, it can become a major health hazard if the property is being renovated without the proper precautions or if there is chipping and/or peeling paint that might cause lead dust.
- Myth #9 – Lead is not a big issue. Our generation grew up in lead-based paint housing, and we are fine. I want so badly to say something sarcastic here, but I will stick to the facts. Many people feel this way because they cannot see or smell Lead Poisoning. Yet, Lead Poisoning causes many different types of health problems in both adults and children including high blood pressure, seizures, hearing problems, ADHD, kidney disease and learning disabilities. Some of the effects of Lead Poisoning might mirror other health problems. There are many negative health effects that result from inhaling or ingesting lead dust. Both adults and children can be impacted by Lead Poisoning. Children, seniors and pregnant women are more susceptible.
- Myth #8 – I don’t need to take any special precautions if I am just scraping the lead-tainted paint off the exterior or interior of the house. WRONG! I quench every time I see someone scraping chipping and peeling paint off the exterior or interior of a house. If you scrap lead-tainted paint without taking the necessary precautions, you create lead dust that fall on the exterior and interior of the house. That lead dust can be tracked into your home, other people’s homes or work places. This creates a health hazard for everyone, especially small children, pregnant women and seniors.
- Myth #7 – I am a trained carpenter or home developer. I don’t need any special training or certification to rehab/remodel a lead-tainted property. WRONG again! By Maryland law, anyone engaging in lead abatement or lead risk reduction treatments must follow certain work standards. Anyone who provides lead abatement service must complete a training course that has been accredited by the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Anyone or any business that serves as a lead contractor, supervisor, inspector, risk assessor or training provider must also be accredited by MDE.
- Myth #6 – I am a certified lead inspector. I know what to do [but am not doing it because]…Lead is not that big of an issue. In my opinion, people who think like this need to retake a lead worker training class or turn in their lead certification licenses. Their defiance and lack of general care for the public is part of the reason why Lead Poisoning is still a major problem in Baltimore and other cities across the nation. With all the governmental regulations that have been passed over the last decade to address this issue, the problem continues because of “professionals” who still lack the proper training and concern needed to fully address the Lead Poisoning issue.
- Myth #5 – It’s okay to put the tools and work items (i.e. coverings) I use to remove the lead-tainted paint inside the house and/or property that is currently being used by residents and/or office staff. Because lead is a health hazard, it should be treated as a health hazard. If you were dealing with acid, you wouldn’t put the tools that you used to remove the acid in the kitchen where food is prepared. No explanation needed on that one, right? Believe it or not, the same logic applies to the equipment/tools used for removing lead-based paint. You should store those items away from the public access and in a manner that does not put those working to remove the hazard in harm’s way.
- Myth #4 – It is okay for me not to take any special precautions of tracking lead dust back into the house and/or property that is currently being used by residents and/or office staff. WRONG! Every worker that is helping to rehab or remodel a lead-tainted property should receive a certain amount of training to understand the imminent health dangers if the proper safety precautions are not used. Checking the progress of workers every so often and barking off orders does not equate to training. If you care about your community and the people you employ to do service on behalf of your company, you will follow the law not because it is the law but because you want to protect the community and your employees from harm’s way.
- Myth #3 – I don’t have to worry about dealing with the lead poisoning issue on my property. I am working with someone who has promised me he/she would take care of it. Although it is so much easier to pass the buck or responsibility of dealing with this issue to someone else, if you are a property owner that has lead-tainted paint on either the exterior or interior you (and the contractor you hire) are responsible for dealing with the problem in a responsible way that meets all legal and public health guidelines.
- Myth #2 – If I ignore the problem, it will go away. Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but if you fail to address the problem adequately, it could turn into a legal nightmare for you and a tragedy for the child or adult who has to suffer through the life-long health effects of Lead Poisoning. Your ignoring the problem is negligence on your part and stains anything good that you are trying to do in relation to the lead-tainted house or property.
- Myth #2 and 1/2 – I don’t have to tell my neighbors that my house has lead. Let’s just keep this our secret. Some secrets are meant to be told, especially when the public’s health is affected. If you are remodeling or rehabbing a lead-tainted house, you should definitely inform your neighbors because everyone (your neighbors and the workers who are helping to remove the lead) need to take special precautions to not track any lead dust back into their homes.
- Myth #2 and 1/4 – Lead poisoning is a poor “Black” issue. That’s not my problem. Like any other health problem, lead poisoning doesn’t discriminate. It is a health hazard to anyone who is living or working in a property that has chipping or peeling, lead-tainted paint. Although lead dust is the most common way for people to get Lead Poisoning. There are other ways for people to get poisoned by lead. Here are just a few: lead-based cosmetics, lead-based toys, lead-based cookware, lead-based dishes, lead-based jewelry.
- Myth #1 – This issue is causing me too much stress. I can’t deal with it right now. Looking the other way or ignoring the obvious won’t help the situation. Yes, it is a tough reality for property owners. It is an even tougher reality for parents and lead-poisoned children who face a range of socio-economic and health problems due to them being poisoned by lead. Don’t be part of the problem. Take action to do what is right, and follow the proper guidelines to rehab/remodel lead-tainted houses and/or properties. And stop getting angry or annoyed when people come to you out of general concern regarding your inaction or poor action in dealing with a property you own that is tainted with lead. Iron sharpens iron!
CLICK HERE to read the Maryland State Guidelines for anyone wishing to remodel or rehab older houses.
CLICK HERE to learn some important facts about lead poisoning.