Lead, one the 95 naturally occurring elements found on Earth, has many properties that makes it attractive as an industrial metal. But when ingested by a child, it can lead to long-term adverse effects.
The dangers of using lead have long been known. It was used, however, in this country in many products, mainly in leaded gas and residential paint. By the late 1970s, most of these uses were discontinued, yet the lead remained in the environment, particularly in the paint in older housing.
When children come in contact with lead, it can reduce their intelligence, impair hearing and reduce stature. Levels as low as 5 µg/dL or lower in infants, young children, and pregnant women are associated with impaired cognitive function, behavior difficulties, fetal organ development and other problems. In fact, no amount of lead can be considered safe in young children.
NCSL Environmental Health "Lead in the Water" 2017 Webinar Series
The tragedy in Flint, Mich., caused states to rethink their approach to lead in water and lead service lines. Although water utilities provide corrosion control to keep lead pipes from leaching, utilities do not control the pipelines from the water service to the building or house. These lead service lines account for an estimated 50 percent to 75 percent of the lead in drinking water. With water from lead service lines being identified as a common source of lead exposure in children, states are looking for approaches to replace these lines.
NCSL conducted a three part webinar series on "Lead in the Water" in 2017. The following are the resources and presentations from each webinar.
Lead in Housing
Lead-based paint is currently the foremost source of lead in the environment, which is found in homes built before 1978. For housing built before 1955, when house paint contained up to 50 percent of lead, lead-based paint hazards are common. In these homes—and in many built between 1950 to 1978—paint wears down into flakes, chips and dust as it ages or if it is not properly maintained.
Renovation or maintenance projects that disturb lead-based paint can create lead dust hazards. Dust from renovation projects can be found almost anywhere—on toys, walls, floors, tables, carpets or the fingers of young children. Lead can be abated in homes, but the process is costly.
Forty-four states have adopted laws addressing lead hazards. In 38 states, contractors must be trained and certified to abate and inspect lead-based paint. Fourteen states and the U.S. EPA require renovators to have training on lead hazards in homes.
NCSL produced a document for legislators on lead hazards: Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting: A Guide for States on the Federal Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule
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