Lead poisoning awareness events being held through next week
By John McPhaul
The consulting firm Nortol Environmental & Occupational Safety is joining various state and federal agencies such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, for National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which began Sunday and runs through Saturday, to guide and educate the public on how to prevent a possible poisoning from the toxic metal.
Educational and counseling initiatives are being implemented to raise awareness about the danger of lead exposure, educate parents and communities on how to prevent its serious health effects, and learn about the importance of testing children for lead.
According to the most recent statistics, some 3.3 million U.S. households, including 2.1 million low-income households, have children under the age of six who live in households at risk of lead exposure that can affect a child’s cognitive development.
As a matter of fact, in Puerto Rico, five out of 10 structures inspected by NORTOL in the southern region after the 2020 earthquakes contained lead either in construction cement, floors or in the paint used on the structures.
“Both Hurricane Maria and the earthquakes that took place in 2020 revealed the prevalence of lead in buildings where children under six years old are exposed,” said Norta Torres, president of Nortol Environmental & Occupational Safety.
As part of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, events will be held in San Juan and Ponce today, Thursday and Saturday, as well as Nov. 2 and Nov. 4, to raise awareness on the subject.
Ingestion or inhalation of lead particulate, even if minimal, could cause serious health problems that can affect the nervous system, the neurological system,kidneys and reproductive organs in both children and adults.
Lead poisoning can be difficult to detect, and even people who appear healthy can have high levels of lead in their blood. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal. Unfortunately, the signs and symptoms do not usually appear until dangerous amounts accumulate, Torres said.
“Among the most frequent symptoms in children we can list: delay in development, learning difficulties, irritability, loss of appetite and weight, abdominal pain and vomiting, constipation, hearing loss and seizures,” she said. “In adults it can manifest itself with severe headaches, abdominal, joint or muscular pain, hypertension, difficulties with memory or concentration and mood disorders. In men it can cause a reduction in the blood count and abnormal sperm, while in women it can cause sponatneous abortion, intrauterine fetal death or premature birth in pregnant women.”
“Lead-based paints and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are the most common sources of lead poisoning in children,” Torres continued. “Other sources are air, water, and contaminated soil. Adults who work with batteries, or do home renovations or auto shop jobs, could also be exposed to lead. In fact, the probability of finding lead in paint in buildings built before 1978 can fluctuate between 24% and 87%.”
According to the most recent statistics, some 3.3 million American households, including 2.1 million low-income households, have children under the age of six living with risks of lead exposure that can affect a child’s cognitive development.
Torres added that in 2019 regulations in Puerto Rico established that lead-glazed ceramic tiles have to be handled in the same way as lead-based paint. The presence of these ceramics in bathrooms, kitchens and floors is very common and has increased the positive findings since the presence of lead is estimated in up to 90% of the cases.
The EPA’s Renovation, Repair and Lead Paint regulations require companies undertaking environmental protection projects involving renovation, repair and painting that will disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care and preschools built before 1978 obtain certification by the EPA (or by an EPA-authorized entity), use certified renovators who have received EPA-approved training, and follow lead-safe work practices.
Puerto Rico law states that the purchase agreement of buildings built before 1966 (when lead-based paints were banned) should contain a clause requiring an inspection for lead in the paint. However, the cost is passed on to the purchaser, so often the measure is skipped.
For more information contact the National Lead Information Center, 1-800- 424-LEAD . For more details on how to be trained and certified in the proper handling of lead, as well as in related topics, call 939-545-0018.