Prevent Lead Exposure Outdoors
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.