New Orleans is known for its food, its music and its architecture, all of which have roots that are centuries old. All of these are good things, and in my mind great things. Except when it comes to old houses, old houses have layers and layers of old paint. The problem with old paint is Lead. Lead is costing us millions of dollars in medical bills and keeping New Orleans youth from having a chance to grow up in a healthy environment. Lead was a staple ingredient in household paints before 1978. Any home built at or before this time are more than likely exposing homeowners and children to Lead. Over 300,000 1 to 5-year-olds are found to have blood Lead levels that are considered toxic per year and according to the EPA, as many as 1,000,000 may go undiagnosed. Things like Lead Poisoning and Carbon Monoxide poisoning are the culprit of common flu symptoms in as many as 20% of children. Some of the older parishes in New Orleans have been tested and as high as 50% of children have lead poisoning.
There are 86,000 properties in Orleans Parish that have Lead in the soil above what is considered safe. Until all of the soil can be cleaned and all of the paint safely removed from buildings and houses knowing when a child is sick is the best we can do. Some common symptoms in children could just as easily be symptoms of poor indoor air quality. Children that regularly have headaches, are tired, or don’t feel hungry could be moving into advanced stages of Lead poisoning and should seek testing/treatment.
The organizations and contractors that are rebuilding New Orleans are the first line of defense against Lead poisoning. When working on homes, paint that hasn’t been disturbed for years is exposed. Sanding, drilling or cutting for 5 minutes can easily stir up enough lead dust to poison an entire family for weeks. In these situations it is best to follow recognized and required procedures from the EPA. If Lead is found in the paint then proper remediation procedures should be followed.
Everyone knows that it is a tough job market and a good education is crucial. But how can we expect children to learn and do well when many of them are suffering from permanent disabilities caused by Lead paint? ADD/ADHD, Autism and violence are all permanent effects of exposure to Lead from paint. This problem has been affecting us for a long time and won’t disappear overnight. If we take the time to do a thorough job now, we may save the children of tomorrow from a toxic future.
Symptoms of lead poisoning in children The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include: ● Headaches ● Irritability ● Loss of appetite ● Sluggishness and fatigue ● Abdominal pain ● Vomiting ● Learning difficulties For a complete description of the recent rules put into place by the EPA please click here: http://www.epa.gov/lead/pubs/renovation.htm#requirements
● For a more complete list of the health conditions that lead poisoning can contribute to visit: http://www.lead.org.au/fs/fst7.html
● Doctors have concluded that childhood lead exposure is linked to violence in countries all over the world: http://www.bestofneworleans.com/gambit/heavy-metal/Content?oid=1255562