Fixing up your old home might just increase your child's health risks due to exposure to lead, says a new study.
The study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre has found that interior renovation of older housing may lead to a modest increase in children's blood lead level (BLL) and associated long-term health risks.
"Any person working on a home where children reside or visit frequently should know that their renovation work could cause lead hazards for the kids if the home was built before 1978, when the government banned lead-based paint in housing," said Dr Adam Spanier, Ph.D. M.P.H., lead author and director of the Pediatric Environmental Health and Lead Clinic at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Centre.
The researchers examined 249 children all living in homes built before 1978. The study showed that those who resided in houses where renovations had been done had higher blood lead levels than those in houses where no renovating had been done.
With the help of multivariable analysis, they discovered that kids who had lived through renovation projects had a 12 percent increase in mean BLL by age 2 compared with other children.
The increase in BLL seemed related directly to the renovation work, given that if renovation took place within one month prior to measurement, 2-year-old children had a 1.6 micrograms per deciliter increase in average BLL and if the renovation was more recent (within a month before blood tests were done), compared to an average jump of 0.8 micrograms per deciliter in children whose houses had been renovated two to six months before measurement.
The team also noted a link between high lead concentration in the building's existing paint and the child's BLL.
Previous researches have shown that children's BLL below 7.5 is cpould lead to intellectual impairment and affects brain development.
"Toxic agents such as lead could have long-term effects on children's brain development even as early as when they are fetuses," said Dr. Spanier.
"If lead poisoning goes undetected and untreated in children, it has the potential to result in a number of neurodevelopmental issues, including ADHD and learning problems," he added.
Researchers suggested that the risks could be reduced if parents used heavy plastic to cover doorways, windows, floors, and any furniture that can't be removed from the renovated area and dispose of all trash and debris. Blocking off and shutting off air conditioning or heating vents in the work area, closing windows and doors in or near the work area, misting paint before sanding or scraping, if possible, have the children stay at a friend or relatives while the work is being done, use personal protective devices (masks, gloves, etc) or seek training in lead safe work practices.
"There are risks to renovating older homes, but there also are lots of ways parents can reduce the risk of lead exposure to their children," Dr. Spanier said.
"It's also more cost effective to avoid the problem than to treat an already exposed child. Preventing exposure is the key."
The findings were presented at the Pediatric Academic Society (PAS) annual meeting in Honolulu on May 3.