New lead exposure warning for Tampa Bay families

Posted at 4:48 PM, Mar 04, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-04 18:34:34-05

A new warning about a potentially deadly poison that could be hidden inside your home is coming from the Suncoast Safety Council.

They are now launching a campaign warning about the dangers of lead exposure as people renovate their older homes.

MORELead exposure information for families

Mauricio is one of those renovating an older home near Ybor City. He is working night and day to prepare the home for his mother's arrival. She is moving from El Salvador to America after the death of her husband.

"I'm doing all this so she feels comfortable," her son told ABC Action News, speaking in Spanish. "I'm going to fix all this. It's all going to be painted."

But it's no small task as safety experts say these renovations could leave Mauricio and his mother at risk for lead exposure.

Ed Maurer of the Suncoast Safety Council is seeing more young families renovating older homes and unwittingly exposing themselves to lead. Most at risk are families who are living in homes built before 1978, when the United States finally banned the use lead-based paint.

He said one of the most prominent places lead can be found are in the deepest layers of paint in your windowsills and door frames, which are considered high-wear areas. When renovations occur and the paint is chipped away, the lead layers become exposed and can turn into a toxic dust.

"It gets into the fabric in the homes, it gets into the food," Maurer said.

Maurer said before hiring anyone to work in your older home, make sure they are EPA certified, which ensures they are trained to work with lead-based paint.

Maurer said those at highest risk for lead exposure are pregnant women, because lead can hurt the developing baby, and kids.

"If you have children, especially children under the age of 6, they are on the floor a lot so they are getting a lot of hand-to-mouth exposure," Maurer said.

Maurer said the best thing you can do is test these surfaces for lead, using kits you can purchase for $5-10 at any hardware store. He said it's as simple as cutting deep into the paint on any surface and dropping the test liquid in. If it turns red, you know there's lead.

"Test several different areas," Maurer said.

He said lead exposure can also come from water in older pipes, some of which can contain lead.

To avoid exposure, Maurer said run water before using it until you feel a temperature change. He said that ensures any lead that may have settled into water sitting in the pipes will have been flushed out. He also recommends using cold water for drinking or bottle-making.

Maurer also recommends using a quality, name-brand water filter that sifts for lead and regularly changing the water filter.

Suncoast Safety Council: Preventing Lead Expsoure: 

Ways to Prevent Lead-Based Paint Exposure:

  • Determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare).
  • Consider testing your home for lead-based pain and dust by an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certified lead risk assessor or inspector.
  • Make sure your child does not have access to chipping, peeling, or chalking paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources.
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present during renovations in housing built before 1978.

Ways to Prevent Lead Exposure from Soil:

  • Regularly wash children's hands and toys.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil.

Ways to reduce lead exposure from drinking water:

  • Use only cold water. Hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead.