Housekeeping and Hygiene Practices That Can Reduce Lead Exposures

You can reduce the risk of lead poisoning associated with lead-contaminated house dust by following a program of frequent, careful and thorough dust removal. Dust removal is not a substitute for repairing damaged paint, but it can reduce lead exposure risks while you await repairs, as well as the risks that even intact lead paint can present. To remove the dust, you need to thoroughly wash and rinse all counters, cabinets, windowsills, window wells, tops of doors and door jambs, moldings, bare floors and any other surface where the paint dust may have settled (sweeping, vacuuming or dry dusting such surfaces will not get rid of all the dust, and tends to raise clouds of dust and spread it around). It's a good idea to do this wet cleaning before moving your family or any belongings into a rental home that may contain lead paint.

The CDC recommends a continuing program of wet mopping and damp dusting of all hard surface floors, stairs, windowsills, base-boards, etc., at least twice a week, to keep lead-contaminated house dust down to a minimum. A solution made with a phosphate detergent (such as most automatic dishwasher detergents) works best. Any sponges and rags you use for this cleaning should not be used for anything else, especially not for dish washing or cleaning kitchen counters or tables where you prepare food!

Paint dust that settles into carpeting is especially difficult to remove. If floors are carpeted, a vacuum cleaner with an agitator will remove dust more effectively than a vacuum cleaner with suction only. However, most vacuum cleaner filters can't keep the finest dust particles from escaping in the exhaust and being spread around again, even up into the air where they can be inhaled. Because of this, bare floors in good condition, that can be washed regularly, may present less of a lead poisoning risk than carpeted floors.

A surface layer of unleaded paint on chewable surfaces does not protect children from exposure to lead in the underlying lead paint. Think about ways to keep children away from chewable surfaces that may have been painted with lead paint -- for instance, arrange furniture to block windowsills or put radiator covers over exposed painted radiators. Be especially cautious with older hand-me-down items like painted furniture, cribs, and toys that can be chewed on by young children, unless testing confirms that they have not been painted with lead-based paint.

Additionally, you should wash your preschooler's hands and face often during the day, especially before meals, naps and bedtime, to remove whatever dust they may have picked up. Pacifiers, teething toys and any other toys that regularly go into your child's mouth also need to be washed often.