How Dangerous Is It?
Evidence of reduced intelligence caused by childhood exposure to lead has led the World Health Organization (WHO) to list ‘lead-caused mental retardation’ as a recognized disease. WHO also lists it as one of the top 10 diseases caused by environmental factors that burden children’s health. WHO says: “Lead has no essential role in the human body and lead poisoning accounts for about 0.6 per cent of the global burden of disease.”
Children are exposed to lead from paint when deteriorating paint on walls, windows, doors, or other painted surfaces begins to chip or deteriorate and lead is released into dust and soil. When a surface previously painted with lead paint is sanded or scraped in preparation for repainting, very large amounts of lead-contaminated dusts are produced and these constitute a severe health hazard. Children playing indoors or outdoors get house dust or soil on their hands, and then ingest it through normal hand-to-mouth behaviour. If the house dust or the soil is contaminated with lead, the children ingest lead. Hand-to-mouth behaviour is especially prevalent in children aged six years and under – also
According to WHO, there is no known safe level of exposure to lead. Lead-exposure impacts on children continue throughout life and have a long-term impact on a child’s work performance.