The Vermont Department of Health is reminding Vermonters that, as they rush to complete seasonal painting and renovation projects, they should take precautions to protect young children, and themselves, from exposure to lead.

Children under age 6 are at highest risk because their bodies are developing and they absorb lead more easily than adults. Most childhood lead-poisoning cases are caused by lead dust and paint chips from older housing, and Vermont has one of the oldest housing stocks in the nation.

Lead, a highly toxic metal, was commonly found in paint before 1978. Unsafe renovation and remodeling practices spread lead dust, which is extremely hazardous.

In homes built before 1978, assume the paint contains lead. Do not dry-scape, dry-sand, power-wash or use a heat gun. Lead can also be a hazard outside the home, including dust and chips that get into the soil where children play.

The health department urges homeowners, renters, contractors and landowners to stay up-to-date with lead-safe remodeling and renovating practices.  The Vermont Housing and Conservation Board offers financial and technical assistance for qualified property owners, free classes, and has guides and information at leadsafevermont.org.

Lead is an invisible threat and it is common for children with unsafe blood-lead levels to show no obvious symptoms. The only way to know a child’s blood-lead level is to have a blood-lead test. The Vermont Department of Health recommends obtaining a blood lead test on all children at ages 1 and 2.

A simple finger stick is all that’s required for a lead test and this can be done by the child’s health-care provider.

Information: healthvermont.gov/enviro/lead/lead.aspx, or call 800-439-8550.

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