Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.
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QUESTION: One of my colleagues found out that his 10-month-old had elevated lead levels from exposure to lead paint dust in their Brooklyn apartment. It made me wonder how common this problem is. And what about adults — are they affected, too? — Katie D., Brooklyn, New York
ANSWER: Lead exposure among children is high where older housing stock (that’s pre-1978, although pre-1950s is most problematic) is riddled with dust-producing lead paint.
According to the New York Post, in 2017, NYC Housing Authority officials found potential lead-paint hazards in 81 percent of the nearly 8,900 apartments housing children under age 6.
Older rural and suburban homes also can be contaminated — and so can yards and fields where lead from lead-containing gasoline settled and remains to this day.
Adults are vulnerable, too. A recent study published in The Lancet estimates that 400,000 deaths annually in the U.S. are a result of chronic low levels of lead exposure, triggering cardiovascular woes.
There’s really no safe level of exposure to lead, and it appears to be a larger problem than we once realized. So, to test your home, water and yard:
>> Contact your state or county health department. Some provide testing services or maintain lists of services and certified lead professionals.
>> You can use a home dust test kit and send it to a lab for results. HUD standards for lead dust are 40 micrograms of lead per square foot for floors and 250 micrograms of lead per square foot for windowsills. Intact lead paint rarely is a hazard.
>> If you suspect or know that there’s a problem, have your child’s blood tested. A blood lead level of 10 ug/dl is a concern; you should reduce exposure pronto. At higher levels, medical treatment is required.
>> Don’t remove lead-based paint yourself.
>> Have your water and yard tested for lead.
>> A diet rich in iron and calcium, and low in saturated and trans fats, causes the body to absorb less lead.