Lead Paint Poses Greater Danger than City Water

Information reprinted with permission of the Courier Times, local newspaper New Castle, Indiana www.thecouriertimes.com

Lead paint poses greater danger than city water

Posted: Wednesday, May 18, 2016 6:00 am

With the revelation that Flint, Michigan, residents have been exposed dangerous lead in their water, city dwellers across the country have begun to worry about the stuff coming out of their kitchen tap.

Drinking water isn’t the only source of dangerous lead exposure in New Castle, however. Children can be exposed to high lead levels in buildings that were constructed more than 40 years ago.

In fact, the Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) said “deteriorated lead-based paint in the child’s home environment is the primary source of lead poisoning.”

While no lead exposure is considered safe, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule calls for water systems to keep lead levels below 15 parts per billion (ppb). A study by the Associated Press found that nearly 1,400 water systems that serve 3.7 million Americans have violated the federal lead standard at least once since Jan. 1, 2013.

The EPA’s Safe Drinking Water Information System, complied by information submitted by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM), shows that New Castle utilities tested above the threshold Nov. 17, 2014. That test showed lead levels of 25.1 ppb.

New Castle Water Plant Superintendent Greg Phipps said the city conducted 60 voluntary water tests in February for IDEM after city residents raised concerns about the water.

“They all came back well within acceptable levels,” Phipps said.

At the same time, the Henry County Health Department provided free testing of home and business water samples. All 30 private tests came back “with excellent results,” Phipps said.

The World Health Organization’s maximum acceptable concentration for lead in drinking water is 10 ppb. New Castle water showed 9.54 ppb between Jan. 1, 2008 and Dec. 31, 2012.

New Castle residents may want to shift their focus from the faucet to their walls if they are concerned about possible lead poisoning.

Steven K. Galson, Acting Surgeon General in 2009, wrote that between 1999 and 2004, an estimated 240,000 children 1–5 years of age had elevated blood lead levels and “most of these elevated levels were a result of lead-paint hazards in and around their homes.”

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) warns parents that lead paint poses a greater risk to their children than city water. HUD said children may become lead poisoned by putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths, eating paint chips found in homes with peeling or flaking lead-based paint, or by playing in lead-contaminated soil.

Lead-based paint was a popular choice for homeowners and construction companies before it was banned in 1978. Until that time, scientists and health experts had not considered that lead paint dust would have a detrimental effect on the population.

Henry County tax records show that at least 4,000 homes and buildings in New Castle were built between 1901 and 1978. The ISDH said the older a home is, the more likely there is to be lead and “any child living in a house built prior to 1978 is at the greatest risk of lead poisoning.”

According to the EPA, low levels of lead exposure can cause hearing, behavior or learning problems in children due to brain damage and damage to the nervous system. High lead levels can be confused with flu-like symptoms. These physical symptoms include poor appetite, stomach ache, headaches, trouble sleeping and crankiness. Children with very high lead levels can experience convulsions, coma or death.

Health-care providers can pinpoint lead levels in the blood and can offer specific plans for treating lead poisoning.

The Henry County Health Department, located at 1201 Race St., Suite 208 in New Castle, has information about safely renovating older homes.