December 4, 2021

Everything You Need To Know About Lead Materials!

Lead is a metal that is found in the environment and was used in many consumer products.
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Lead is a metal that is found in the environment and was used in many consumer products. Some you might never have thought of, including roofing and plumbing products, coatings for toys and in soils. Most people have a small amount of lead in their blood from these exposures.

Lead was used in most homes before being banned in the late 1992, lead and other products including paints are still likely to exist undetected in many places. Before digging into any renovations in an old home, it’s worth considering lead materials may be present. Summit Environmental can undertake lead-based risk assessments and sampling to certify that the materials contain lead or risk free.

Lead paints were extensively used, for a range of uses both internally and externally to wood, metal and other surfaces. This includes doors, door frames, stairs, banisters, window frames and sills, flooring, pipework, radiators, soffit’s, fascia’s and garage doors.

Do I have lead in my home?

The age of your home is a good guide. If it was built before the 1992 there could be some lead contained.

Does it have original coats of paint? If your paintwork is quite thick – lead could be locked into the deepest and oldest layers.

If lead is likely to be present, we would recommend having a lead-based paint tests for homes built prior to 1992, but it may not be necessary if the materials are in good condition, and you don’t plan to redecorate.

Is lead testing for lead materials mandatory in the UK?

No, it isn’t. We advise ‘Don’t do it yourself,’” It’s possible, but poses several hazards, especially if there are children or pregnant women in the household.

Workers, however, are protected by The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) and this regulation places a duty on employers to prevent, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to control employee exposure to lead.

Can you test for lead at home?

You can test for lead in your home in many ways:

  1. Home test kits. These tell you if lead is present, but not how much is present. We wouldn’t advise doing it yourself, however, we understand cost is always important.
  2. Secondly, we are happy to analyse your samples for you, send them to us and we can analyse them for you. This will save surveyor costs.
  3. Use Summit Environmental for sampling and assessment. With many years of experience undertaking lead assessments and completing sample testing, we have a great understanding of lead in a range of buildings and structures all the way to marine vessels. Using a surveyor reduces the risk’s that sampling may generate many free fibres of materials. Experienced surveyors are also recommended so that the person sampling is fully trained, wear the correct PPE, minimise the risks of disturbance and ensure the sample is fully representative of the material in question and is suitable for analysis. All our lab assessments and testing certificates are always produced for each of the samples taken/received together with a percentage & mg/kg figure for each paint sample.

How do lead materials get into your body?

When lead and items containing lead are processed, worked, or recovered from scrap or waste they can create lead dust, fume or vapour. Your body absorbs lead when you:

  1. Breathe in lead dust, fume or vapour;
  2. Swallow any lead, eg if you eat, drink, smoke, or bite your nails without washing your hands and face.

Any lead you absorb will circulate in your blood. Your body gets rid of a small amount of lead each time you go to the toilet, but some will stay in your body, stored mainly in your bones. It can stay there for many years without making you ill.

Prolonged breathing or ingesting lead dust or fumes can cause serious health problems like kidney, nerve and brain damage or infertility.

The Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002 (CLAW) places a duty on employers to prevent, or where this is not reasonably practicable, to control employee exposure to lead.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning, also known as plumbism and saturnism, is a type of metal poisoning caused by lead in the body. The brain is the most sensitive. Symptoms may include abdominal pain, constipation, headaches, irritability, memory problems, infertility, and tingling in the hands and feet.

A simple blood test can detect lead poisoning. A small blood sample is taken from a finger prick or from a vein. Lead levels in the blood are measured in micrograms per decilitre (mcg/dL).

Lead testing in blood?

A lead test measures how much lead is in the blood.

There is no safe blood level of lead. However, a level of 5 mcg/dL is used to indicate a possibly unsafe level for children. Children whose blood tests at those levels should be tested periodically. A child whose levels become too high — generally 45 mcg/dL or higher — should be treated.

How should your health be checked at work regarding lead?

At your place of work, an appointed doctor or a nurse (under the supervision of a doctor) will take a small blood sample to measure the amount of lead it contains. This is measured as a number in micrograms of lead for each decilitre (or 100 millilitres) of blood.

You are legally obliged to provide blood or urine samples for this purpose. Blood-lead levels are usually checked every three months, especially if you are under 18 or a woman of child-bearing age. It may be more often if you do the sort of work where you could rapidly absorb lead (eg work on lead-burning processes where exposure to lead fume could be high unless properly controlled).

The doctor may check your blood-lead level less often if your exposure and your blood-lead level do not usually change very much. This could be every 6 or even 12 months.

Is lead testing in blood mandatory in the UK?

Yes, under the Control of Lead at Work Regulations 2002, employers must arrange for workers ‘significantly’ exposed to lead at work to have regular blood tests. These regulations lay down two blood levels: An ‘action level’, above which your employer must review the steps they are taking to control your lead exposure.

When is lead in paint dangerous?

Lead-based paint is most dangerous when it is deteriorating—peeling, chipping, chalking, cracking, etc. And if you plan to disturb the paint at all, perhaps for a big renovation, a repair, or simply a new coat of paint, you need to take extreme caution, as these activities can create toxic lead dust.

What is lead paint testing?

Lead paint surveys, aim to quantify the amount of hazardous paint present in the building or area. The lead paint sampled during the survey is then analysed to determine the presence of lead-based paint.

Lead paint surveys & analysis are crucially important for those involved in refurbishment or renovation, particularly in period properties or listed buildings which have been neglected or have remained unchanged for some time.

Lead in drinking water?

Lead can be present in drinking water That’s why it’s important you find out if your home has lead pipework. This is more likely if it was built before 1970, but your pipes might also be joined by lead solder if they were installed before 1987.

How to check for lead pipes?

  1. Find the pipe leading to your internal stop tap and the kitchen tap (it’s usually under your kitchen sink or in the downstairs toilet).
  2. Unpainted lead pipes will be dark grey or black, and their joints will look swollen.
  3. Scrape the pipes gently with a coin. If they’re lead, shiny silver strips will appear.
  4. Tapping a lead pipe with a metal object will produce a dull thud rather than a clear ringing.

How to reduce the amount of lead in water?

  1. Use cold main tap water for drinking or cooking. Hot tap water will dissolve more lead than cold water. Only use cold water when mixing infant formula.
  2. Run the tap for a couple of minutes. If water has stood in your pipes for a few hours or more, run the taps before you use water for drinking or cooking.

What can you do to protect your own health?

Make sure you have training if you need to work safely with lead, including what to do in an emergency, or such as a sudden uncontrolled release of lead dust or fumes. Wear any necessary protective clothing and respiratory protective equipment required such as gloves, RPE and other PPE. Practise a high standard of personal hygiene, and especially: – wash your hands and face and scrub your nails before eating, drinking or smoking; – wash and/or shower and change if necessary before you go home.

For further reading:

CLAW at Work Regulations 2002

For some examples of lead exposure cases see below;

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