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Prevent Lead Exposure Outdoors

July 7, 2010

We tend to only hear about the dangers of lead exposure when it comes to children’s toys.  Yet the most major source of lead exposure to children and adults often comes at home – and that can include your backyard.

First things first.  Why do you want to prevent exposure to lead? Lead is so toxic because it can cause neurological problems, especially in children under the age of 5 as their bodies experience rapid brain development. But lead can cause problems in anyone of any age. Mood disorders, lower IQ, delayed development, fatigue, anemia…the list could go on and on. That’s why you want to avoid exposure to lead.

But here’s the thing. Lead doesn’t disappear. It’s not like other toxic chemicals in gas form that eventually disappear into the atmosphere. No, lead stays put where it is, which is why it’s so important to take proper precautions.

Homes built before 1978 could contain lead-based paints, which were legal until legislation changed the law around that time. Which means that outdoor paint could contain lead, too. If you have chipping paint on the outside of your house falling into the garden or other play areas (even if it’s new paint painted on top of lead-containing paint), you might have a lead problem. Now consider this. Children play outside and put their hands in their mouths (and even eat the dirt, every now and then!). The family pets could be roaming around in that area, tracking in dirt on their paws and also ingesting it. And if you’ve got a garden of edible foods planted in a lead-containing area, that’s not good.

Lead can also be found in the ground located far from the house.  Lead escaping from gas fumes in cars can accumulate in the dirt near the road, especially on busy roadways. So be careful about allowing children or pets to play in these areas, too. 

What to do? Well, the easiest thing is just to avoid exposure to these areas if you think that there might be a lead problem. Lead doesn’t cause problems without exposure to it, so unless you’re inhaling or ingesting or have physical contact with the area, you wont’ need to worry as much.

If you are concerned about lead exposure and want to utilize those areas of the yard, you will probably need to replace the soil. The old soil needs to come out, with fresh new soil to replace it. But you’ve got to take proper precautions when moving the soil, such as a mask and gloves.

This is part of the Healthy Child Blog Carnival (link to – an effort by Healthy Child Healthy World to help inspire a movement to protect children from harmful chemicals.  Want to find out what other bloggers are saying about creating a healthier lawn and garden?  Here’s just a few clips:
Natural Ways to Prevent Fleas, from the Healthy Bun blog:
Non-Toxic Ways to Kill Pests (and let the kids have some old-fashioned dirty fun):
How to Grow a “Greener” Lawn:
Taking your shoes off at the door:
Badger’s Anti Bug Balm:
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12 Comments leave one →
  1. July 20, 2010 11:06 am

    Great info. I never thought about the possible contamination to the soil from old paint. Visiting from the Healthy Child Healthy World blog carnival.

  2. July 20, 2010 11:39 am

    Hi Kimberly, thanks for posting this on the Healthy Child Healthy World Carnival Blog. You are so right-we are always so focused on lead exposure coming from the inside of our home-we often forget that lead based paint may have been used on the exterior. How about having your home repainted?

    • July 21, 2010 11:01 am

      Thanks, Lori! Are you asking about needing to have your home repainted? Lead paint isn’t a problem until it starts chipping or peeling, so if there is nothing going on with the paint, pehaps it’s best to leave it alone. Otherwise, call in a professional.

  3. July 21, 2010 2:07 pm

    Also visiting from the Healthy Child healthy World blog carnival. Great reminders! I think it is very easy to forget that lead in things like paint (and the car keys we give the baby to play with) indoors and out. Now I am wondering if we should get our garden soil tested… yikes, that is a scary thought!

  4. July 29, 2010 8:08 pm

    Keep up the good work, I like your writing.

  5. December 17, 2010 11:46 pm

    Excellent info thanks. We need more and more awareness on lead exposure.


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