It’s every parent’s bittersweet dream and every child’s rude awakening, the day when the birds finally leave the nest. An exciting time, when every “adult-child” becomes just an adult, and parents remember what it is like to have control over the DVR and fridge. However, your first place isn’t going to be shiny and new. It’s potentially going to be outdated, with stains on the carpet and walls, and you’re just going to be thankful it’s affordable (in your price range) and close to work.
The problem with these older apartments, condos, and houses, especially in Alexandria, is that many of them were painted or built with lead-based paint or asbestos insulation.
Lead is a natural blue-gray metal found in the earth’s crust. It’s tasteless and odorless. However when ingested, lead is very toxic, especially to young children and infants. Lead was first used by the Romans, not only can we thank them for the aqueducts but also the lead that lined them. Lead was used in paint for its pigmentation and quality of opaqueness, and it was later realized that lead paint dried faster and was more durable than leadless paint. This is how it came to be used as wall and toy paint, as these surfaces needed something that could withstand children and daily use.
Lead, when ingested, disrupts numerous crucial bodily functions and can cause symptoms ranging from nausea to madness, and even death. Lead has been proven to block receptors of glutamate, an essential neurotransmitter needed for learning and development. Lead disrupts other naturally occurring and necessary metals needed in the body such as calcium, iron, and zinc. Lead also harms the make-up of red blood cells, inhibiting oxygen from getting to all of the cells in the body.
Long term effects of lead exposure are shorter attention spans, lower IQ’s, emotional, physical, and learning developmental retardation, and madness. The declared threshold for how much lead a body can safely tolerate has shifted dramatically over the years as researchers have come to better understand its dangers. Decades ago, city health officials tested for blood lead levels that were higher than 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. Now, it is believed that anything higher than 5 micrograms can cripple a child’s cognitive development.
Lead paint was used up until 1978 in houses and is still around today. As long as the lead content is less than 90 parts per million, it is legally allowed to be used in homes. That is why when researching new homes and apartments it is good to know when the unit was built so you can ask your landlord about lead paint. By law, as long as the landlord informs a tenant of the possibility of lead paint they have done their duty to the tenant.
However, scare tactics aside, lead paint is dangerous only if it becomes airborne. It becomes airborne through dust by peeling or rubbing. The EPA has said that for adults, lead paint in homes is harmless if in good condition. Lead poisoning is a real danger and steps must be taken if the paint begins to peel or if it has been painted in areas of regular use.
If you are worried about lead paint in your home and wish it to be removed the City of Alexandria EPA codes require you to hire a contractor that is “Safe Lead Certified” to remove the paint. Consider changing window units from wood to metal, and always dust and wipe down surfaces before laying out food. However, before going to “Extreme Home Edition: Lead Paint” have a talk with your landlord about the risks involved with the removal of lead paint and find the probability that there is lead paint in your home.
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