If you are a client of Dr. Molly Linton’s and you are being treated with or considering heavy metals chelation therapy, you may be interested in potential heavy metal sources, current renovation laws, and what you can do to protect yourself, family, tenants, and pets from heavy metal exposure.
In 2008 a painting company failed to practice lead safe protocol on my home and it cost me a second mortgage in remediation costs, repairs, and attorney fees. There is a new law in enforcement to protect home owners from unscrupulous contractors, but if you are unaware of the law, or what safe practices are, you could be exposed to lead and other contaminants.
Most of us have heard that houses before 1978 are possible sources of lead. What you may not be aware of is just how likely your house is to have lead in the paint. According to the EPA’s Report On The National Survey Of Lead-Based Paint In Housing, “an estimated 64 million,” “or 83 percent of all privately occupied housing units in the United States built before 1980 have lead-based paint on some surface in or around the building.”
Renovation in a home built before 1978 can disturb this contaminated paint and expose anyone working or living in the house to lead and other contaminants. The EPA’s Report Lead Exposure Associated with Renovation and Remodeling Activities gives information that, in summary, states that construction creates contamination, and that the level of contamination varies depending on what is disturbed during construction. Many of us renovate over a period of time. As a homeowner you may replace a door one year, a few windows the next, update a bathroom or kitchen, remodel a basement or attic, and paint the exterior every 7 to 10 years. Unless what is replaced, repaired, removed, or painted, was installed or built after 1978 it is very likely that lead is being released.
As of April 22, 2010, new federal lead laws affect contractors and landlords. Outlined here are the basics of this law. This is by no means a full explanation of the law; please see the EPA website Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) to understand the exact requirements. In short, all contractors performing renovation, repair, or painting projects that disturb lead-based paint must be certified and trained to follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination, and they must implement those practices. Both contractors and landlords must provide clients and tenants with the document Renovate Right: Important Lead Hazard Information for Families, Child Care Providers, and Schools (PDF). In addition, landlords must document that they have delivered the document to their tenants.
For more information
· See the EPA’s Lead in Paint, Dust, and Soil website
· Also refer to the EPA website Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP)
· Call the Washington Lead-Based Paint Program 360.586-5323
The Washington Lead-Based Paint Program can provide you with information about how to select a qualified contractor as well as provide other helpful information. When selecting a contractor be sure to ask some basic questions:
· Is the contractor lead trained and certified(according to law they must be)?
· What did their training consist of and where did they take it?
· What will they do to protect you, your property, their workers?
In addition to checking for lead training and certification, remember to check references, and verify that your contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. The Washington State Department of Labor and Industries provides information about protecting yourself when hiring a contractor.
Even if your contractor is very good at what they do and implements safe practices, it is possible that you could still be exposed either while work is ongoing, or during cleanup. You may want to consider having yourself professionally fitted for a respirator that meets OSHA standards. A respirator is not a dust mask, can only be fitted by a professional, and requires a doctor’s note. It may also be a good idea to move your-self, pets and possessions out of the house, or at least out of the area being worked on.
You can test for lead in and around the house yourself, or you can have an environmental engineering company come in and test. Having a professional do the testing will give you exact levels in various areas inside and outside of your home. They may also provide a risk assessment for your home. There are federal guidelines regarding acceptable lead levels, and the company providing the service will inform you about those levels. You can contact the Washington Lead-Based Paint Program 360.586-5323 with questions you may have regarding testing.
Your supplements and herbs are another potential source of lead. You may have heard that supplements from California are clean, and for the most part this is true. California has a law called Proposition 65 that puts stiff regulations on toxic substances that cause cancer and birth defects, however according to the law supplements may still contain these substances (including lead). The Proposition 65 FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) states the following:
· “Small businesses with less than 10 employees, governmental agencies, and public water systems are exempt from the warning requirement and discharge prohibition of Proposition 65”
· “Under Proposition 65, there are no acceptable concentrations established for any listed chemical in any given product. An exposure that causes a significant risk of harm from a listed chemical through the use of a product would trigger the warning requirement, not merely the fact that a listed chemical is present in a product.”
If you are ever curious about a supplement, you can ask the manufacturer if it contains lead, or you can have the supplement independently tested.
Herbal remedies, in particular if they are sourced outside of the US, may also contain lead. If you are curious about any herbs or supplements, you can have them tested at NP Analytical Laboratories (NPAL).
The World Health Organization has a provisional tolerable weekly intake (PTWI) of 0.025 mg/kg of body weight for lead. This measurement includes any lead absorbed through ingestion or breathing. Although ingestion is difficult to measure, this number can be used to assess levels in any supplements or food that you have tested.
If you are being treated for ongoing exposure to multiple heavy metals, it may be worthwhile to include those metals in any testing that you have done on your home or supplements. You may be surprised to learn that according to the State of Washington Department of Ecology Paint and Coatings information “mercury, cadmium, chromium, barium and arsenic were commonly used in paint as pigments and preservatives and are now found in paint on older buildings.” This means that you could be exposed to these substances the same way you are exposed to lead.
If you believe that you have had a recent exposure, call your healthcare practitioner and ask to have your blood lead levels tested. Make this call as soon as possible after exposure. This test will determine what the exposure level was and will help your practitioner make a recommendation regarding treatment. If your practitioner is unfamiliar with blood lead level testing, you could contact the Harborview Occupational and Environmental Clinic or call the Washington Lead-Based Paint Program 360.586-5323 and they should be able to point you in the right direction. If you want to know what the current standards are for lead poisoning, the Washington State Department of Ecology documents the current standards for blood lead level testing.
There are many resources that explain the effects of lead in children and the developing brain, and lead poisoning in adults:
· World Health Organization: Lead: Assessing the environmental burden of disease
· Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry
· Center for Disease Control and Prevention: Lead Home Page
However, there is less data available regarding long term low level exposure to lead. Both the World Health Organization report Lead: Assessing the environmental burden of disease, and Lead Toxicity: What Are the Physiologic Effects of Lead Exposure? from the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry note that there is a correlation with long term lead exposure and hypertension. There is also a study recently published in the American Journal of Epidemiology that strengthens evidence linking long term lead exposure to ALS or Lou Gehrig’s disease. Hopefully these articles will inspire a growing body of research on living with long term low level exposure to lead.
Given the data regarding children and workplace exposure, and the ongoing research that appears to link long term low level exposure to illness, it makes sense if you live in an older home to have your soil tested, repair or replace flaking or chipped paint, apply safe construction habits, keep your home clean, and test anything you believe may be suspect. With these practices you are protecting yourself, your family, and others.
· Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry: Lead Toxicity- Cover Page
· Center for Disease Control: Lead Home Page
· Environmental Protection Agency:
· United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA): OSHA Technical Manual – Section VIII: Chapter 2 – Respiratory Protection
· Washington State Department of Commerce: Washington Lead-Based Paint Program
· Washington State Department of Ecology:
· Washington State Department of Labor and Industries: protecting yourself when hiring a contractor
· World Health Organization: Lead – Provisional Tolerable Weekly Intake