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QUESTION: I need to know what kind of danger my family is in, if it is possible to deal with it? 02/05/11 New South Wales, Australia

I live in rural NSW. I used a home test kit to check for lead and it came back with a strong lead reaction. I am having a lot of difficulty getting tradespeople in this area to vacuum the ceiling or asses the risk of paint. I need to know what kind of danger my family is in, if it is possible to deal with it, if I have time to deal with it before it harms my family etc..

EMAIL TWO Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 2:56 PM

Thank you very much for responding so promptly.

To answer some of your questions:

I have a 6 year old daughter and I am trying to get pregnant currently. We have lived in this house for a year and are now ready to renovate. This is what led me to do the test in the first place. The external walls are about 50 -90% already completely back to timber with the paint flaking off into the soil. The walls that are covered by veranda have cracked paint and it is just beginning to chip and flake. The inside of my kitchen cupboards constantly flakes paint onto our crockery (which tested positive for lead). We have a 8 month old cat. We have friends and family that visit with toddlers. We do grow our own herbs and fruit but have not yet started our veggie garden.

We don't have chooks. The house was built in the 1890's. There is constantly dust coming through the ceiling, especially over the fire place. The internal house walls are in pretty good nick.

Does this help?

Will dumping a whole lot of mulch around the garden help? Do fruit trees transfer lead from soil into fruit? Does vegetation help in neutralising soil? Should I avoid having a baby in this house? Should we move?

Regards,

Jessica

EMAIL THREE  Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 5:24 PM To: The LEAD Group

Subject: RE: Should I avoid having a baby in this 1890 house? Should we move?

Thank you. That helps a lot.

Regards,

Jessica

ANSWER: May2 2011

Dear Jessica,

you haven't told me the condition of the lead paint, the age/s of your  children or the age of the house or whether you have pets that might eat  soil, or whether you are pregnant or grow your own vegetables or run chooks,  whether the house has been renovated while you were living there or before  you moved in etc so it's impossible for me to advise on immediate risks. To find out how much lead the most at-risk members of the family have been  exposed to already (young children, pregnant women, lead hobbyists /  renovators / shooters etc), you should ask your GP to order blood lead  tests. If renovation is happening now and you don't have lead-trained and  experienced contractors and there's lead paint flakes and dust everywhere,  you may need to move out but if you are simply planning to repaint and would  like to also have ceiling dust removed then you have more time to plan  things.

When you have the blood lead results, if any of them exceeds 15  g/dL  (micrograms per decilitre), then you should receive assistance from NSW  Health Department. They would need to do a full home lead assessment and give you specific advice on what to do about the results in order to prevent  further lead exposure. However, that action level - 15 g/dL - was set 14 years ago before we knew that much lower blood lead levels cause adverse and unacceptable health effects. So we recommend that you carry out your own  home lead assessment using our DIY-sampling kits  - if any of the family's blood lead levels is above 2 g/dL. Our kits have  the advantage over the Lead Check colour change kits that you can use our  kits for testing lead (at the lab) in dust wipes, soil, water, toys,  ceramics, as well as paint and you get a quantitative result that can be  compared to standards, not just a colour change.

You can read all the reasons why we use 2  g/dL as our action level at:

A vital part of the response to the action blood lead level is nutritional  intervention, so I will also email you our Nutrition Info pack. If all blood lead levels in the family are already below 2 g/dL, then,  unless you have a baby who is just about to start crawling, you should have  time to clean up any chalking or flaking lead paint. If you can't find a  local lead-trained paint contractor at  Painters With Lead Paint Management Training - Australia then it is advisable to do the work  yourself after learning how to do it lead-safely.

Ceiling dust removal is not recommended to be done yourself but if you're  lucky, a local asbestos removal contractor may have appropriate equipment OR  you may be able to ensure that all the ceiling dust remains IN the ceiling  void and no one is exposed to it. See ["Lead paint & ceiling dust management - how to do it lead-safely"]. All the best and feel free to re-contact with more details.

Elizabeth O'Brien

EMAIL TWO Sent: Monday, May 02, 2011 5:09 PM

Subject: Should I avoid having a baby in this 1890 house? Should we move?

Hi Jessica,

thanks for all those details - that gives me a much clearer picture. Flaking lead paint needs to be cleaned up immediately, by wearing a dust  mask while picking it up from the soil flake by flake or by shovelling the  thinnest possible layer of soil and paint flakes into sturdy plastic bags or  tight-lidded buckets for disposal with your council rubbish pick-up. If the  amount of soil is huge, your council may require a DA, in which case, to  avoid the expense and time-delay of a Development Application, you'd be  better to add three inches of topsoil to areas that you want as lawn, OR  pave, OR, for areas already containing shrubs, fruit trees etc, add 3 inches  of mulch and ensure that it is replenished when it degrades, so that it  always does a good job of limiting child and pet access to the  lead-paint-flake-contaminated soil. For areas where you want to grow herbs  and vegies, you are best to lay down builders' plastic or some other  non-toxic impermeable barrier on top of the soil, place a raised garden bed  frame down on the plastic (eg stainless steel corrugated tanks) and then  fill the tank / raised bed with purchased clean soil.

Fruit does not generally take up lead even though the plant may. However,  strawberries and other low-to-the-ground fruits should always be washed  before eating, to ensure no soil is ingested. The same goes for herbs and  vegies.

Mulch does decrease lead uptake into plants, as does ensuring that the soil is not acidic.

I'll also email you our Vegetable gardening info pack for more details.

The jury is still out on whether microwaving leaded ceramic ware and washing  it in a dishwasher will increase the amount of lead that leaches from the  glaze into food or drink so, as a precaution, I would cease using your  leaded ceramic ware in the microwave or dishwasher and be sure not to store  acidic, alcoholic or hot foods or beverages in your ceramic ware. Glass /  pyrex is a safe substitute.

Once all the flaking lead paint is cleaned up (starting with the kitchen  cupboard interior paint if it tested positive for lead) and you've tested a  dust wipe sample from the floor where a baby would be learning to crawl, you  can then work out (by the dust wipe result) whether the house is lead-safe  for a baby to crawl in. Your adult behaviours (washing hands, wiping kitchen  benches before you prepare food on them, using wet-cleaning instead of  dusting or sweeping, learning how to use wet methods to prepare lead paint  for repainting or to fully remove the lead paint) will protect your next  baby from current lead exposure via the placenta, and the pre-crawling baby  is generally only at risk from lead in the air so it is conceivable that you  can control lead in the air (eg by not letting a painter dry-sand or heatgun  and by sealing up any cracks in the cornices and around the fireplace plus  by regularly sugar-soaping / wet-cleaning around the fireplace, it is then a  matter of monitoring the blood lead level of your 6 yr old again - after all  the work is finished - to ensure that it falls below 2  g/dL (or has  remained below 2  g/dL during the work), so you know if the place can at  least be made lead-safe for a 6 yr old. If it can't be made lead-safe for a  6 yr old, then you should move. There is no better test in determining  lead-safety than the blood lead test of the most at-risk individual already  living there.

I hope this helps.

Elizabeth O'Brien,

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