Did you know? Some household objects put you at risk for lead poisoning

Watch for items such as hand-me-down toys

HOUSTON – Even though lead paint was banned in 1978, it still exists in older homes and toys.
Now that people in Houston are in the process of reconstruction, lead experts worry about increased exposure to the harmful chemical.
Devina Bhojwani, a mother of two, is rebuilding her home after Hurricane Harvey.
“I live in Bellaire,” Bhojwani said. “We're in the process of reconstruction (and we'll) hopefully be done by Christmas.”
She said she tested for mold and asbestos, but risk assessor Steve Veedell said the test no one is telling her about is a lead test. The harmful effects of lead pose a threat to children younger than 6 and women of childbearing age.
Lead exposure is known to cause seizures, weight loss and learning disabilities.
“It will affect brain development in children," Veedell said. "It affects a number of different things that affect them as their bones are growing. Lead can get in the bones faster and stay longer if the bones are still growing, and that's why 6 years and younger is important. It's important for women of childbearing years because they can pass along the lead that's in their blood to their unborn children."
The Environmental Protection Agency said 1 milligram per square centimeter of lead is dangerous.
According to the EPA, lead can be in: 

  • Dust particles
  • Jewelry
  • Playgrounds
  • Soil
  • Toys
  • Drinking water

Read about this child who suffered lead poisoning from crayons.

Veedell uses an X-ray Fluorescence Analyzer, or an XRF, to test for lead in less than 10 seconds.

He said the only safe amount of lead is one that reveals zero, or negative, lead on his XRF.

Negative is good because even if it's an old house that's been repainted, it will still test layers underneath coats of paint. Meaning, old lead-based paints cannot hide from the XRF.

However, even if lead paint is in walls, it's probably not an immediate threat until someone cuts through the sheet rock.

“What the EPA says is that if you cut out 6 square feet of painted surface inside a house, or 20 square feet outside, you need a lead certified contractor,” Veedell said.

So the question is, if lead paint has been banned for decades, how could your child be exposed?

Be cautious of hand-me-down toys.

“These are old antique toys that actually came from Britain, and not only do they have lead-based paint on them, but they are actually lead objects," Veedell said. "The whole object is lead and these register about 38 times the hazardous level for paint and lead in toys."

Despite the lead ban of 1978, it remained in toys for years afterward, and at this very moment, it's in your keys.

“They have no idea and you see [babies teething on keys] all the time, and it drives me crazy,” Veedell said. “The majority of keys that I’ve tested, especially the new ones, have some component of lead in them.”

The good news is, most new toys are safe. We tested rattles and puzzles at a local Gymboree and all reveled a “negative” amount of lead.

“We test everything that they think is an issue. Especially if the baby teethes on it,” said Veedell as he explained how he chooses what to test at a home where he’s contracted to work.

The problem is, homeowners have to know to hire a professional and Bhojwani said even with all the permits she was required to get to make home repairs, nobody warned her about lead.

“I wish, in my case, the city of Bellaire would have given us more recommendations, but I think there's so many homes that just on my street -- there's 20 homes that flooded, and everyone's going through the process of reconstruction," Bhojwani said. "No one's thinking of lead in sheet rock. Especially the older homes, which were built back in, you know, (the) 1950s."

Lead can be detected in a blood test.

Chances are, if you live in an older neighborhood, your pediatrician may be looking for it. Here are the state guidelines.

However, Veedell said many families don't think to contact him until they're trying to get to the source of major health problems.

“Right now, if it looks like learning disabilities or some other issue is forming, at that point, the pediatrician may test the child for lead," he said. "It can be tested in blood the way you would take any other blood sample, but often, parents are not asking for it and so they're not testing unless they have some type of symptom.”