Q&A: DIY lead poisoning of an 18 month old
Q: My 18 m.o. daughter has a blood level of 6.8 ug/dL. What should I do?
Question from: a father in Woodville West, South Australia 5011, Australia, January 12, 2017.
I own a 1940s maisonette and we have recently become aware that a number of enamel painted surfaces have undercoats containing lead (confirmed using a 3M spot test). Much of this paint is peeling and cracked. We had our 18 m.o. daughter tested shortly after learning that, and she came up with a blood level of 6.8 ug/dL... After reading some of the linked articles on your website, I am very concerned and want to get her levels as low as possible as quickly as possible.
The major problem is money, I read that some years ago your organisation was quoted at nearly $300/m2 for lead paint removal. I simply can't afford that kind of fee and my daughter would be years older before I can.
I have found a tool, "the paintshaver pro" http://paintshaver.com/paintshaver-pro/
They state that when attached to a HEPA vaccum they meet EPA RRP recommendations for lead paint removal. Do you have any thoughts on the hire and use of this tool for a DIYer?
I have no affiliation with paintshaver pro or any hire stores in Australia, I am just an out of work lawyer looking to give my daughter a safe environment.
Answer emailed January 13, 2017:
You may be thinking that you've contacted a lead paint management contractor such as Lets Clean in Sydney, but actually, you've contacted Australia's only lead-safety charity (The LEAD Group Inc) which provides a free service to the public (and to government and business), advising on lead problems and their solutions.
After finding your email, [and web-searching the definition of maisonette as I was not familiar with the term - it is "maisonette - a self-contained apartment (usually on two floors) in a larger house and with its own entrance from the outside"] I contacted the South Australian Health Department Environmental Health Section to ask whether they have an action level for blood lead's yet, but sadly, it is still in the works. However, I was advised by a staff member, that when it finally is ready, as in most other Australian states, the new policy will ensure that blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per decilitre will be required to be notified by the lab to the Health Department. And if the South Australian blood lead notification policy is like other states, once notified of an elevated blood lead level, the Health Department will organise an Environmental Health officer to contact the person (or their carer or parent) and advise them on how to respond, and even, to go to the house to collect samples, test them at a lab, and then give more specific advice on how to rapidly bring down the blood lead level, or, if they find no lead hazards in the home, collect samples from other places a child frequents such as their childcare premises.
As a co-founder of The LEAD Group charity and parent of lead poisoned children and main campaigner for national blood lead notification and government response (as well as the ban on leaded petrol and leaded paint and inks), If I were in your situation, I would try contacting the man who is developing South Australia's blood lead notification policy, David Simon, and ask him if he could organise the kind of response that the policy will entail, even though the policy is not yet in place. David's phone number is 82267154.
If David decides not to assist you, then I would highly recommend that you do the next best thing (to having an environmental health officer come to collect samples) and buy a LEAD Group Kit and with it, collect your own samples. Children most often are lead poisoned from ingestion of lead-contaminated dust and soil so unless your daughter actually goes up to the wall and picks off and eats the paint (or picks it up off the floor and eats it) then it is quite conceivable that by "fixing" the lead paint problem that you've identified, you could be worsening the real problem which is quite likely to be your daughter's normal hand-to-mouth activity resulting in lead from soil and dust inside (particularly if there are carpets or rugs) being ingested by her and absorbed from the gut.
I will forward you some very useful Info Packs so you can also plan out whether ceiling dust and drinking water should be sampled - both of these and a number of other sample types can be tested using a LEAD Group Kit. The analysis is done at a NATA-accredited lab and I write you a report, based on your results, making recommendations about your best lead remediation steps.
A couple of years ago I asked Leadnet egroup of lead poisoning prevention professionals about the "the paintshaver pro" and it was not recommended so I'll forward you an email about that separately.
In the meantime, before you do anything and while you're waiting for other more pertinent sample types to be tested for lead, I recommend that, if the doctor didn't already order iron studies on your daughter's blood, that you phone the doctor and ask them to phone the pathologist and add that as an extra test on the blood sample that will still be at the pathology lab. It is a vital part of bringing down blood lead levels to adequately deal with nutritional deficiencies but most particularly, iron deficiency.
All the best and I look forward to hearing of a fast drop in your daughter's blood lead level. I recommend that the next blood lead test be carried out within a week or two of the first change you make to her likelihood for taking in or absorbing more lead. You need this feedback so you know when to stop taking lead-safety steps. We recommend you can stop when your daughter's blood lead result is non-detectable, that is, when there is a "less than sign" < in the result.
The Lead Education and Abatement Design (LEAD) Group Inc. (environmental health charity)
Manager, Lead Safe World Project (LSWP) – a collaboration between NGOs and businesses with products or services which help to create lead-safety locally and further afield
Lead Advisor, LEAD Group test kit results interpretation service www.leadsafeworld.com.au/solutions/lead-group-diy-sampling-lab-analysis-lead-test-kits
and LEAD Group test kit advice-via-Skype service, re: type of samples and where to collect them from, for your LEAD Group kit
2014 Volcano Art Prize (VAP) Entry. Title: Lead Needs My Attention for My Daughter's Sake. Lead-safety Message: Following this Skype session with Elizabeth O’Brien of The LEAD Group, I will use a LEAD Group kit to have soil, paint, and dust analysed at the lab..
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