August 23, 2014

Uptick in lead poisoning cases related to economy?

State health officials say an increase in childhood lead poisoning cases in Iowa could be tied to the economic downturn.

Kevin Officer, with the Iowa Department of Public Health’s Bureau of Lead Poisoning Prevention, says many people living in older homes are choosing to do their own repairs and they’re not always following lead-safe practices.

“Homeowners or landlords are doing scraping or sanding of the existing lead pain on the homes,” Officer said.

Removing lead-based paint can be dangerous if it’s not done correctly. “One of the primary things they can do when they’re removing the paint is keeping it moist or wet with a mister, basically a bottle mister to mist the area before scraping or painting it. That will keep the dust down and keep paint chips from getting all over the place,” Officer said.

Other safety tips include using a tarp or piece of plastic to catch paint chips and washing all surfaces with household detergent when the renovation job is complete. Officer says the prevalence of lead poisoning among children in Iowa under the age of six is seven-percent. That’s more than four times the national average. Many homes built before 1978 were painted with lead-based paint.

“The homes in Iowa are a lot older than in many other states,” Officer said. “Iowa ranks in the top five in terms of older homes around the state.”

Officer says children with very high blood lead levels can suffer severe brain damage or even die. Of the childhood lead poisonings investigated by inspectors with the Iowa Department of Public Health, 75-percent were exposed to lead from home remodeling projects.