Lead exposure: The danger lurking in your home

Find out the risks of lead in your home. Discover your rights as a renter for making your landlord remove the hazard.

The law steps in sometimes to ensure renters do not face particularly hazardous situations, such as exposure to lead. This substance can create serious health issues and is something that requires immediate attention.

Where is lead found?

Lead is often found in paint but may also be present in pipes. It can be in the air, soil or water. In the U.S., regulators banned lead paint for use in household items and toys in 1978. NYC Health explains that with over half of the buildings in the city having a construction date before 1960, there is a high chance that many renters live in a building with lead paint.

Lead paint that is in good condition does not pose a major risk. The danger comes when the paint is peeling or damaged. Disturbing the paint can also put lead in the air. When present in plumbing or used to weld pipes together, it can seep into the water.

What are the dangers of this substance?

The Mayo Clinic explains that lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body over time. It is most likely to affect children under the age of six the most because they are most likely to get paint chips or debris on their hands and then put their hands into their mouths to ingest the lead. Adults, especially pregnant women, may also suffer the ill effects from exposure.

Lead poisoning can lead to mental and physical development delays in children and other health issues in adults. In unborn babies, it can lead to low birth weight and premature birth in addition to delays in development. If levels get too high, it can be fatal.

The danger of this condition is that it is difficult to detect until it is serious. Children may show signs, such as:

  • Irritable mood
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Stomach pain
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Constipation

Adult signs include:

  • Stomach pain
  • Headache
  • Mood swings
  • High blood pressure
  • Joint and muscle pain
  • Fertility issues
  • Memory problems

The damage done by lead to the body is not reversible.

How can a person protect his or her family from lead?

If a renter knows his or her building is older than 1978, then he or she should take measures to ensure lead is not present. It is also a good idea for renters to reinforce good hygiene habits, such as washing hands often. They should not allow children to play in areas with damaged paint, and renters should report paint issues to the landlord as soon as possible. To avoid lead in water, a person should run the water for a minute before using it.

People who suspect a lead issue in their home can get blood tests for themselves and their families. Early detection can help avoid potential health complications from lead poisoning.

What should a person do about lead in his or her home?

NYC Health states that tenants are not responsible for fixing issues but are responsible to report it. They should use the annual notice to provide information on children in the home and address concerns about lead.

Building owners have a legal obligation to fix lead paint hazards when there is a child age five or under in the home or there for at least 10 hours in a week normally. Free assessments are also available to those who meet these requirements:

  • Home built before 1960 or acknowledgment by owner there is lead paint and it was built prior to 1978
  • Building has at least three units
  • Child under five lives or is there at least 10 hours a week

Fixing lead issues safely requires following specific safety protocols. Workers must have training in proper measures for removal and containment. If a renter has concerns and a landlord is not addressing the issue, then he or she should consider contacting an attorney, such as Subin Associates, for further information and assistance.