Lead is a toxic grey heavy metal that us Mounties should be thinking about, especially if we have or will have young children. In 2016, Reuters looked nation-wide at lead hotspots, and though Mount Rainier is better than some areas, nearly 6% of the children living in single family houses and 3% of the children living in apartments had elevated lead levels (http://bit.ly/mrgt-lead). Exposure to lead can lead to mental impairment and psychological disorders in children and brain and heart problems in adults.
How are Mounties getting exposed to lead? There are three main ways:
- Lead Paint. Lead was added to paint to help paint be more durable, more moisture-resistant and to dry more quickly. Lead was banned in most paint in the US in 1978, but many of the houses in Mount Rainier were built before then and could have lead paint throughout the house. This lead paint could be the top layer or covered by several coats. Lead paint is mainly a problem if it is chipping and the chips get eaten or paint dust is breathed in. You should test your house for lead paint, especially if children are present or on the way. Two home tests meet EPA standards: D-Lead (http://bit.ly/mrgt-d-lead) and Lead Check (http://bit.ly/mrgt-lead-check). Other home tests are more likely to give false positives or negatives and shouldn’t be trusted. If you test positive for lead paint contact a removal professional immediately and do not try to remove the paint yourself. If you do need help with money for removal, MD has a grant and loan program to help (http://bit.ly/mrgt-lead-hazard-grant).
- Lead in Drinking Water. Lead can be in your drinking water when pipes with lead corrode, especially when water has a high acidity or low mineral content. The most common problem is with brass or chrome-plated faucets and fixtures with lead solder. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, fixtures, and solder. You should test your water for lead as soon as you are able if you have not tested in the past. You can get a home test kit at any local hardware store, which will tell you if your levels are high but may not give you exact numbers. You can also send your water off to a test facility approved by the MD Department of Environment (http://bit.ly/mrgt-MDE-lead-list: Note it is any facility that does “Metals 1” testing) to get a more thorough test.
- Lead in Soil. Lead likely entered your soil because it was a component of car exhaust. Lead was added to gasoline until the mid 1990’s though it started to be phased out in the late 1970’s. Areas like Mount Rainier that had decades of car travel have lead deposited in the soil. You should get your soil tested, especially if you have children or want to garden. The problem with exposure to lead in soil to children is the same as paint: it’s mostly a problem if they eat it. If you want to garden you should wash all plants thoroughly before eating and you may want to consider digging up the soil you have and getting fresh dirt from College Park Public Works (http://bit.ly/mrgt-cp-compost). You can get your soil tested through any of the resources recommended by the UMD Extension Service (http://bit.ly/mrgt-lead-soil).