Years ago, many older homes and apartment buildings contained lead-based paint. However, lead paint is very toxic and hazardous to humans, especially younger children. Typically, one can detect lead-based paint if chipping, flaking or peeling paint is observed. Lead can be ingested by small children by them eating paint chips and/or touching lead based paint chips and then placing their hands in their mouths. Although lead-based paint was banned in 1978, many older homes and apartment buildings continue to have a lead presence somewhere within the building. Lead-based paint is not the only way that one can get lead poison. Vinyl miniblinds, drinking water and certain foods also contain high levels of lead that can be transmitted. It has been discovered that miniblinds that that were made before 1966 may contain lead as a stabilizing agent. Thus, when the blinds are exposed to ultra violet light, the vinyl then deteriorates and then lead-contaminated dust accumulates on the surface of the blinds. If a home contains lead pipes or plumbing, this may lead to water contamination and exposure. Finally, parents may bring home lead-contaminated dust on their clothing or other materials. Occupations that could bring home lead dust include battery manufacturing, lead based painting and renovation and training or firing ranges.
Lead paint poisoning can cause many complications such as learning disabilities, low IQ and numerous other health problems. When someone has lower lead levels, the typical complications include the lower IQ and learning disabilities, but when someone has higher lead levels, they tend to have more serious health problems and disabilities.
At this point, you may be wondering how do you even know if you or your child(ren) have been exposed to lead, and if there are any injuries that may not be obvious. Providers are strongly encouraged to test children for lead when they turn one and again when they turn two. In North Carolina, this is the minimum requirement for children to be tested for lead levels. It is important to note that all children who participate in Medicaid, the Special Nutrition Program for Women and/ or WIC are required to receive a lead test at ages one and two.
According to North Carolina law, lead poisoning is not confirmed until a blood lead concentration of 20 micrograms per deciliter or greater is detected and determined by the lower of two consecutive blood tests within six months. NCGS § 130A-131.7.(3). North Carolina has a distinction between confirmed lead poisoning and elevated blood levels. Elevated blood lead levels are when the blood level concentration is 10 micrograms per deciliter or greater which is determined by the lower of two consecutive blood tests within two months. NCGS § 130A-131.7.(5).
So, what do you do next if you find out that you or your children have high lead levels? First, if your child has high lead levels, it is important to work with your child’s primary physician to identify any injuries your child may have experienced. For example, if your child is very hyper, has a short attention span and is not thriving at the level that he/ she should be thriving according to their age and grade level, these may all be effects of lead poisoning. Every child is affected different. Thus, some children will not show any signs that they have lead poisoning, other than the high blood levels detected from blood tests. On the more extreme spectrum, some children have severe affects such as unpredictable seizures and inability to concentrate as an older child or teenager.
Under North Carolina law, once the Department of Health is aware of confirmed lead poisoning, the Department will then conduct an investigation to identify the lead poisoning hazards to children. Typically, the Department will start the investigation at the current home of the child with the elevated lead levels and then supplement the investigation by investigating addresses where the child previously lived. NCGS 130A-131.9A(a).
Once it has been determined that a child under the age of six has confirmed lead poisoning, and that the child lives in a home that contains lead poisoning hazards, it is required that remediation occur. NCGS § 130A-131.9C.
North Carolina Health and Human Services has recommended several precautions to reduce and prevent lead poisoning. Here are a few tips:
All information contained in this article and additional information may be found at http://nchealthyhomes.com/lead-poisoning/. In addition, the Department of Health and Human Services can provide supplemental information and resources regarding lead poisoning. If you believe that you or your child may have been exposed to toxic lead paint from a residence that you currently live in, or have resided in the past, please call our office at 704-714-1450 to speak with one of our skilled attorneys.