The LEAD stuff from pencil case

The LEAD stuff from pencil case (Photo credit: Christoffer Mørch)


Over the past few decades, the issue of lead paint poisoning generally has been associated with low-income, multi-ethnic urban families; however, recent data indicate that this problem has migrated to middle and upper classes, and now is characterized as a “silent epidemic“.  The  focus on the troubling health problems associated with lead poisoning has prompted new efforts to alert parents of the mechanisms and dangers of lead exposure and actions needed to prevent lead exposure in children, as well a to detect and treat children who have been affected.


A major project in the works to provide information on lead paint poisoning currently is being undertaken by Tamara Rubin, a film director, whose upcoming film documentary, MisLEAD, “aims to dispel a long-standing misconception that lead poisoning is confined to low-income communities and to children who eat paint chips”.  Ms Rubin, who also is the executive director of the nonprofit, Lead Safe America Foundation, notes the importance of educating all parents, particularly  those in the middle and upper classes, on the realities of lead poisoning and dispelling the perceived stigma and shame often connected to lead paint exposure.  This, in turn, will encourage parents to discuss this issue with their pediatricians and to insist on tests for their children to rule out lead paint exposure.


This project is very personal for Ms Rubin as she had to confront lead paint exposure in her family following a home renovation project that included the removal of old paint.  Two of her children became violently ill, and it took their pediatrician a long time to entertain the thought of lead paint poisoning in the differential diagnoses.  Additionally, due to the lack of awareness of lead poisoning, Ms Rubin never considered the possibility of lead paint poisoning in her children or the need to get them tested.


Ms Rubin’s experience is not unusual in that many older homes in middle class neighborhoods containing old lead paint in walls, pipes, etc., are now occupied by wealthier Americans.  This paint, which was used many years ago because of its durability, is now deteriorating and creating “a new wave of lead exposure that wasn’t happening 10,20, 30 years ago”.  Exposure to lead paint typically occurs during renovation and rehabilitation processes or during rebuilding projects that disturb the soil, which often contains accumulated leaded gasoline from automobile exhaust.  Another noted source of lead exposure is realized from many products that we use everyday, including, but not limited to, “pipes, crystals, shoes, jewelry and car keys“.


Studies show that lead poisoning usually affects the prefrontal cortex of the brain, the area that controls decision-making and compulsive behavior.  Over the years, lead paint poisoning has been associated with higher crime rates, lower test scores by students, ADHD, and even autism.  These health problems occur in children from all economic sectors.  Simply stated, lead paint poisoning does not discriminate.  Currently, we see families who have to rely on pharmacological “treatment” for their children’s symptoms, with the realization that these products mask symptoms, rather than cure the problems and often cause adverse side effects.


Detection of lead levels in the blood is done through blood testing.  Results showing lead levels above 5-micrograms-per deciliter are indicative of lead poisoning in a child.  It is imperative that all parents request that their children be tested for lead poisoning, regardless of their economic status as neurotoxic conditions arising from lead poisoning can be devastating to children’s physical and emotional health and development.  The first line treatment for lead poisoning is avoidance of the exposure, which often is enough to reduce the lead levels in the blood.  In the home, this can be accomplished with lead abatement projects.  With detection of lead poisoning, doctors are able to treat children with a number of therapies, including chelation therapy, which involves administering medications that binds with the lead so that it is excreted in the urine.


A great place to start to get information on the important issue of lead paint poisoning is  Next, consider a discussion with your child’s pediatrician for guidance on this issue.  Please remember that the protection of our children from environmental toxins is tantamount to our effort to live green, be green.


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Now we know many ways to go green.  Most of us have incorporated some of these steps into our personal lives, either by personal choice or by government mandates.  For this movement to be successful and widely embraced, it is important that each of us feel a sense of empowerment from a decision to go green.  In order to sustain a green movement, there must be an immediate payoff.  We realize that in some areas, particularly those of climate change and clean energy, change will be slow, cumbersome, expensive and embroiled in politics.  However, there are some simpler areas of green causes to endorse that bring a more immediate sense of payoff.  These include health and wellness, frugal living, minimalism, spiritual environmentalism, and self-sufficiency.

1.  Health and wellness.  Perhaps this is the subject area that is of utmost importance to most people today.  Scientific evidence has associated several diseases and adverse health conditions to environmental pollution and use of harmful products.  Many cancers are linked to the use of chemicals in cleaning products and fertilizers used to grow food.  Cancer incidence rose significantly from 1950-1998.  Presently it is estimated that 1 in 2 American men and 1 in 3 American women will develop cancer in their lives.  Secondly, with the increased rate of air pollution, the diagnoses of asthma in adults increased 75% between 1980 and 1994 while the same diagnoses in children increased 150%.  Thirdly, the incidences of autism have shown an alarming increase of 56% since 2002.  Other statistics note higher rates of reported infertility problems, along with more reports of birth defects in newborns.  Tests of breast milk samples consistently have shown the presence of pesticides, herbicides and household and industrial cleaners.  Obviously our transition from a natural to an inorganic style of living has caused our cells to mutate, breaking them down and polluting our bodies with toxins.  Adopting green standards in the selection of food and cleaning products goes a long way to protect our bodies.

2.  Frugal living.  At first glance, a walk through the grocery store gives the impression that organic foods and products are more expensive than non-organic products.  However, upon close inspection, this is not necessarily the case.  Local farmers and farmers’ markets are a great source to purchase fresh foods and vegetables.   Local merchants often are available to answer any questions regarding fertilizing and growing techniques of their crops, as well as freshness of the products available for purchase.  When eating out, the new trend of local farm-to-table restaurants offer an opportunity to get well-prepared food that supports local farmers and merchants.  Frugal living also involves (1) purchasing reusable containers and cleaning materials as opposed to disposable paper and plastics; (2) walking, biking, carpooling or taking public transportation to get around town; and (3) even choosing to live in planned urban developments with parks, restaurants, shopping and entertainment facilities and schools strategically located in close proximity to residences and/or the provision of clean-energy public transportation to travel around our communities.  Frugal living enables us to save money, time and the environment while going green.

3.  Minimalism.  A major complaint often voiced today by many people is that life is so complex.  We often are so over-committed to work, social activities and chasing the American dream that we have cluttered our homes and minds to an unhealthy degree.  A minimalist lifestyle urges us to slow down, eliminate distractions, reconnect with family, friends and the universe and to feel less stressed, rushed and exhausted.  By necessity, minimalism incorporates frugal living.  We avoid wasteful consumerism, using only what we need, thereby being able to downsize our living spaces, possessions and activities.  This truly is a green concept with an immediate payoff.

4.  Spiritual environmentalism.  Perhaps the first known environmentalist was Henry David Thoreau.  His recognition and embracement of the environment was from a spiritual perspective.  Thoreau recognized that “in wilderness is the presentation of the world”.  Thoreau was an extremist regarding man’s need to coexist with the planet.  A study of his writings reveals his understanding of the need to wisely manage all resources, including, but not limited to time, money, work, talents and health.  For living space, Thoreau states:  “[e]ach town should have a park, or rather a primitive forest, of five hundred or a thousand acres, where a stick should never be cut for fuel, a common possession forever, for instruction and recreation”.  Thoreau Journal, October 15, 1859

Finally, on the need to protect the environment Thoreau writes:  “[w]hat is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on?”  Familiar Letter, Thoreau to Harrison Blake

And finally, “[a]t the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplainable, that land and sea be infinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable.  We can never have enough Nature.”  Thoreau, Walden, Spring

Spiritual environmentalism is a very personal journey for many people, and provides a response to the recognition that the Earth does not belong to us, but rather is on loan.  We are the stewards of the Earth and are responsible to preserve it and pass it along to future generations.  Another great reason to go green.

5.  Self-sufficiency.  The foundation of green living is self-sufficiency.  We cannot expect private businesses to promote individual self-sufficiency as this is contraindicated to their main goal, to increase the bottom line.  Also, we cannot afford to wait to break through government gridlock to enact laws mandating use of renewable energy, sustainable care of land, and protection of natural resources or to enforce the ban of harmful chemicals in foods and other products of daily living.  Self-sufficiency affords us the opportunity to prepare for natural disasters and potential catastrophes through education; become savvy in recognizing political corruption and using our vote to repudiate it; maintain awareness of flaws in the present social structure which heavily relies on over-consumption and waste and to take pride in adopting a satisfying lifestyle that promotes a healthy balance of work and family life.

These are just a few reasons to go green.  The list goes on and on.  There is so much that we can do to reduce our carbon footprint and protect our environment.  Let’s live green and be green.

An excellent source for environmental articles and statistics can be found at