CDC: Home Renovation May Expose Kids to Lead

Home renovation and related activities continue to be an important source of lead exposure for young children, health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warn in their weekly bulletin.

An assessment of lead-exposure sources in New York state (excluding New York City) in the 1990s found that home renovation, repair and painting activities were significant sources of lead exposure among children with elevated blood lead levels, being implicated in roughly 7 percent of the cases investigated.

A similar investigation conducted in 2006-2007, and reported in this week's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report published by the CDC, implicated home renovation, repair and painting activities in 14 percent of cases of high blood lead levels investigated.

Nearly three quarters of the children were 1 to 2 years old and 25 percent were 3 to 5 years old, the investigators note.

Lead levels in blood of 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher may cause adverse behavioral and developmental problems, and environmental and medical interventions are recommended at 20 micrograms per deciliter or higher. However, the CDC notes, "no level is considered safe."

In the 2006-2007 investigation, home owners or tenants performed 66 percent of the renovation, repair and painting work, which often included sanding and scraping old paint and other activities that may release particles of lead-based paint.

Children living in homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paint was banned from residential use) and particularly those built before 1950 (when concentrations of lead in paint were higher) are now at high risk for elevated blood lead levels when the home is being renovated, the CDC notes.

"This is of particular concern in New York state," the agency points out, "where both the number (3,309,770) and proportion (43 percent) of housing units built before 1950 are greater than in any other state."

"More public outreach and education" is needed to raise awareness about potential lead-exposure hazards when people work on fixing up their houses, the report concludes.

Home owners who remove lead-based paint are encouraged to follow these recommendations: 1) relocate occupants during paint removal and exclude children and pregnant women from the work area; 2) isolate the work areas from other areas of the house; 3) avoid activities that create lead dust or fumes; 4) perform full cleanup after work is completed; and 5) consider monitoring blood lead levels in persons who live or work in the home.