LEAD can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Much of our exposure comes from human activities including the use of fossil fuels including past use of leaded gasoline, some types of industrial facilities, and past use of lead- based paint in homes. Lead and lead compounds have been used in a wide variety of products found in and around our homes, including paint, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, solders, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, and cosmetics.

LEAD is added to paint to speed up drying, increase durability, maintain a fresh appearance, and resist moisture that causes corrosion. It is one of the main health and environmental hazards associated with paint. In some countries, lead continues to be added to paint intended for domestic use, whereas countries such as the U.S. and the U.K. have regulations prohibiting this, although lead paint may still be found in older properties painted prior to the introduction of such regulations.

The EPA's Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule (RRP Rule) requires that firms performing renovation, repair, and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities and pre-schools built before 1978 have their firm certified by EPA (or an EPA authorized state), use certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers and follow lead-safe work practices.

Lead (Pb) and Health Effects

Pure lead (Pb) is a heavy metal (at room temperature and pressure) and is a basic chemical element. It can combine with various other substances to form numerous lead compounds. When absorbed into the body in certain doses lead is toxic. It can be absorbed into the body by inhalation and ingestion. Except for certain organic lead compounds, lead is not absorbed significantly through the skin. When dispersed in air as a dust, fume or mist, lead can be inhaled and is then absorbed through the lungs and upper respiratory tract. Inhalation of airborne lead is generally the most important source of occupational lead absorption. Lead also can be absorbed through the digestive system if it enters the mouth and is ingested.

A significant portion of the lead inhaled or ingested gets into the blood stream. Once in the blood stream, lead is circulated through the body and stored in various organs and body tissues. Some of this lead is quickly filtered out of the body and excreted, but some remains in the blood and tissues. As exposure continues, the amount stored will increase if the body is absorbing more lead than it is excreting. The lead stored in the tissues can slowly cause irreversible damage, first to individual cells, then to organs and whole-body systems.

Long-term (chronic) overexposure to lead may result in severe damage to the blood-forming, nervous, urinary and reproductive systems. Some common symptoms include the following:

  • loss of appetite
  • weakness
  • metallic taste
  • hyperactivity
  • fine tremors
  • numbness
  • constipation
  • anxiety
  • nervous irritability
  • muscle and joint pain
  • colic with severe pallor
  • dizziness
  • excessive tiredness or soreness
  • abdominal pain
  • headache
  • insomnia

Damage to the central nervous system in general and the brain in particular is one of the most severe forms of lead poisoning. Chronic overexposure to lead also significantly impairs the reproductive systems of both men and women. Lead can alter the structure of sperm cells, raising the risk of birth defects, and there is evidence of miscarriage and stillbirth in women exposed to lead or whose husbands have been exposed to lead. Children born of parents who were exposed to excess lead levels are more likely to have birth defects, mental retardation and behavioral disorders or to die during the first year of childhood.

HUD Inspection and Assessment

A HUD inspection is a surface-by-surface investigation to determine whether there is lead-based paint in a home or child-occupied facility, and where it is located. Inspections can be legally performed only by certified inspectors or risk assessors. Lead-based paint inspections determine the presence of lead-based paint. It is particularly helpful in determining whether lead-based paint is present prior to purchasing, renting, or renovating a home, and identifying potential sources of lead exposure at any time.

A risk assessment is an on-site investigation to determine the presence, type, severity, and location of lead-based paint hazards (including lead hazards in paint, dust, and soil) and provides suggested ways to control them. Risk assessments can be legally performed only by certified risk assessors. Lead-based paint risk assessments are particularly helpful in determining sources of current exposure and in designing possible solutions.

Why should I have my home inspected or assessed for risks?

  • Your child has been diagnosed as having lead poisoning. The most common home-based source of lead exposure is deteriorating lead-based paint and the resulting dust.

  • You live in a home built before 1978 where small children are or will be living.

  • You are about to remodel or do anything that will disturb lead-based paint or generate lead-based paint dust and chips that can harm you and your family.

  • You are renting or buying a home. When buying a home, federal law allows the purchaser the opportunity to conduct testing to determine whether lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards are present. This is especially important if you have (or plan to have) young children in the home. Learn your rights before buying a home.

  • You are concerned about possible lead exposure to you, your family and pets, or visitors.

You can also have a combined inspection and risk assessment.  With any of these options, Elite Environmental Services LLC State Certified Inspectors/Risk Assessors can provide you with any of the aforementioned services followed by a written report of findings.

Lead in Construction

Employers must be aware of workplace hazards facing their workers and must take appropriate action to minimize or eliminate exposure to these hazards. In Washington, the Washington State Department of Labor with regards to worker safety and training enforces the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act through a state plan approved by the U.S. Department of Labor.

Under federal and state regulations (the Lead Standards for General Industry and Construction), employers have a responsibility to ensure that workers are protected from harmful lead exposure. This includes making sure that lead in the air of the workplace is not at hazardous levels (i.e., greater than 50 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3) averaged over an eight- hour period).

OSHA’s lead in construction standard applies to all construction work where an employee may be occupationally exposed to lead. All work related to construction, alteration or repair, including painting and decorating, is included.

Elite Environmental Services LLC can visit your jobsite and assess it for lead coated components, lead dust or fumes and advise you on how to avoid exposure by using protective equipment and engineering controls as well as compliance air monitoring.