7 Steps to Avoid Lead Poisoning

Neurotoxic lead is virtually impossible to detect, without testing. Here are a few important things you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning.When I was a kid, one of the things I never understood was why we had to fill the pasta pot with cold water. If I filled it with the hot water that we’d been using to wash dishes, for example, I’d have to run the tap until it was cold again before I filled up the pot to cook.

I’m not even sure if my dad knew why he did this, it’s just the way it was supposed to be done. But now I know that using cold water in cooking is important because of one thing: Lead poisoning.

Lead is a neurotoxin, which means that it affects the way your brain works, and it’s especially dangerous to kids.

Lead is a neurotoxin, which means that it affects the way your brain works, and it’s especially dangerous to kids. Unfortunately, it’s also invisible, tasteless and odorless—so it’s virtually impossible to detect if it’s in your air or water, without testing.

But here are a few important things you can do to protect your family from lead poisoning:

  1. Wet mop at least once a week, and use a HEPA filter when vacuuming. (Lead is transmitted through dust: less dust, less lead.)
  2. Take off your shoes outside to reduce 85% of dirt—including lead residue—from entering your home.
  3. Encourage your family to wash their hands, especially when they enter the home. (Lead gets into the body dust on hands going into mouths.)
  4. Use cold water for eating or drinking, as hot water can dissolve lead from pipes into the water.
  5. Run the tap for one minute before drinking water in the morning to flush the pipes of standing water that can include lead.
  6. Filter your drinking water with a carbon filter, if possible.
  7. Keep your children away from peeling paint, especially if the building was built before 1978, when lead-paint laws went into effect.

If you suspect lead in your environment or lead poisoning, follow a tip from Lead Safe America: Use an inexpensive lead test (available at most hardware stores) and make sure your home is safe. If the test registers lead, ask your pediatrician to test your children’s lead levels.

Living an unleaded life isn’t difficult, but it can take practice. And it may mean giving up on a few treasured memories: I don’t let my kids drink from plastic hoses, as most of them now contain—you guessed it—lead.

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