Lowering your hazardous lead risk

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(KTSF by Jessie Liang)

A workshop on how San Francisco residents can lower their exposure to lead was offered  by the  San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) .

SFDPH spokesman Joe Walseth says there are two sources of lead. “It’s from deteriorated paint on houses, and also from leaded gasoline when we still had leaded gasoline and that was case up until 1996,” said Walseth.

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According to the SFDPH, Ninety percent of residential buildings in San Francisco were built before 1978, which have at one time been painted with leadbased paint. If the building has never been repainted, it may have lead hazard risk.

In addition, urban gardens  next  to the roadways may have been contaminated by vehicle emissions containing lead and could stay in the soil  for  decades.   Walseth says young children have  greater chance  of exposure to lead hazards. “Because young children  in  particular will put their hands on the soil and then put their hands in their mouth. That’s how they often get  exposed to lead.”

The SFPDH  adds that  if pregnant women  are frequently exposed to lead hazards, it could affect the fetus’ health. The EPA’s data shows  that  the effects of lead exposure on fetuses and young children include delays in physical and mental development, lower IQ levels, shortened attention spans, and increased behavioral problems. Children under the age of six are more vulnerable to lead poisoning.

How  can you protect you and your family from lead exposure? First, you should limit lead paint hazards on structures that are next to gardens. Deteriorated painted surfaces should be safely prepared and repainted or resurfaced. Protect yourself when replacing paint to avoid further contamination.

Second, Walseth advises, “Put a barrier over the soil of some kind and create a box where they can make a  raised  bed with new soil that is free of lead.”

If residents are not sure whether your house or garden  has a lead hazard risk, you may purchase a lead tester or contact your county or city’s department of public health for help.  The next lead prevention workshop is Nov. 17, 2012. For more information,  please visit gardenfortheenvironment.org and getleadout.org .

(Copyright 2012 KTSF.  All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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