When and why is lead paint in my apartment or rental home considered hazardous for my children?
The San Francisco Health Code defines a lead hazard as “Any condition that exposes children to lead from any source, including but not limited to leadcontaminated water, lead-contaminated dust (dustlead hazard), lead contaminated soil (soil-lead hazard), and paint-lead hazard in dwelling units or other locations” [Article 26, Section 1603 (w)]
Lead paint in apartments or rented homes is considered hazardous because, in general, as lead paint ages, it breaks down and may chalk or flake into small lead dust particles. These lead dust particles settle on surfaces in the home and the soil, and stay in the environment forever. Lead dust is a hazard to young children because they commonly explore their world through touch and taste, and unintentionally swallow lead dust.
When a child touches surfaces with lead dust particles and later places fingers in his or her mouth it can result in lead poisoning. The child's body absorbs lead, as if it were a needed mineral, like calcium or iron. Gradually the lead builds up in his or her body and causes damage.
Lead is a poison that is especially harmful to young children and fetuses because of its effect on brain development. There is no safe level of lead in the body. Research studies show that any amount of lead detected in children's bodies may affect children's learning ability, attention span and growth.