This week I’m following up on my blog post weighing the health risks of lead paint renovation. Thank you to those of you who have provided feedback on my previous post. Here’s the expert advice I’ve received from Dr. Niladri Basu, RSC Member and Assistant Professor of Environmental Health Sciences, and Tracey Easthope, Environmental Health Director at the Ecology Center.
From Dr. Niladri Basu:
We are in a similar situation, Tracy, and have spent many hours discussing this very matter. We live in a charming 1920’s Ann Arbor home and for sure there is leaded paint buried deep in the walls.
In addition, we have two young boys (5 months and 3 years) and so are acutely aware of the various environmental health hazards in our home. Young children – their brains and bodies -only get one chance to develop properly. Early life exposure to lead (and other toxic chemicals) can easily have life altering consequences.
So what to do – can we renovate our old house that certainly contains lead and also ensure that our sons are not harmed? I believe Yes, and we did so in a manner that aimed to minimize exposures. All surfaces were painted with low VOC, eco-friendly paint. Any/all chips are immediately repaired. In few instances where surfaces were to be scraped for renovation projects, we made sure to do so when the kids were gone and took diligent clean-up steps. Again, the key is to minimize exposures.
Now, our Pediatrician’s office screens infants for blood lead levels. Our older child had a value under 1 ug/dl (note, the CDC guideline is 10 ug/dl). We will have a value for our younger child soon but are not worried.
Sometimes I think there is a clear gap in consumer knowledge and that gap can be filled by information, but in many other cases I think there are values questions, or questions of emphasis, or questions of ‘who bears the risk and who gets the benefit’ that aren’t captured by simply reviewing the science. This framing also assumes that there is always an ‘objective truth’ and I don’t think that is always the case. I think objective truth is particularly hard to come by when the questions are very complex and values laden. Science can’t answer values questions very well. Good science can just help us be more clear about the choices.
I don’t think the two themes you describe are incompatible. I think the first applies unless the second applies. So windows are a special area of concern.
There might be another option, and a greener one. You could just have your windows reconditioned. You can see a video about that here:
I am assuming that the old paint would be removed in this process but I don’t know that for certain. I am also assuming that any lead paint residue would be dealt with well. It might be worth following up with the person mentioned in this video to learn more.
Thank you very much to Nil and Tracey for their advice — it’s great food for thought for me. Does this advice spark other ideas from you? I’d be grateful to hear from you. I’ll be thinking on this, and in my next post, I’ll let you know what we decide to to do!