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Lead-based paint (LBP) was widely used on buildings until 1978, when it was banned on residential structures by the Consumer Products Safety Commission. Commonly known as "Lead White" paint, White Lead is a mixture of lead (Pb) carbonate and lead hydroxide, and was one of the oldest pigments used in paint, with some paints for residential uses containing up to 50% lead by weight.
Over time, lead-based paint may react with certain compounds found in the air, creating a chalky film or dust that may be released. Also, lead-based paint that begins to peel, chip, or crack can expose site residents or workers to contact with these lead compounds. Exposure to this lead is most common among children, who may become lead-poisoned when they put paint chips or exterior soil in their mouths, or when they get house dust and soil on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. In addition, adults who remodel or repaint these homes may be lead-poisoned if they disturb the lead-based paint and either inhale or otherwise absorb the lead into their body.
While concentrated lead exposure can have adverse effects on nearly all organ systems in the body, it is especially harmful to the developing brains and nervous systems of children under the age of six years. At very high blood lead levels, children can have severe brain damage or even die. At blood lead levels as low as 10 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), children's intelligence, hearing, and growth are affected. Unfortunately, however, most lead-poisoned children demonstrate no visible symptoms. This makes it much more important to be aware of the type and condition of building materials, paints, and coatings, especially in older structures, and for the establishment of a community-based lead blood-level testing program for children in areas where older housing may be present.
Iowa Brownfield Redevelopment Program
Iowa Dept. of Natural Resources
502 E. 9th St.
Des Moines, IA 50319