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Could lead paint in your apartment be poisoning your child?

If you rent an apartment or house in New York that was built before 1978, your home may contain lead paint. While you shouldn't dismiss other potential causes of lead poisoning, dust from lead paint is still the No. 1 source of lead poisoning in U.S. children.

Lead was once a common in paint, plumbing and other items, until it was banned for home use 1978. It was banned because children who are exposed to even small amounts of lead can get lead poisoning, which can causes serious developmental issues, including:

  • Deficiencies in I.Q., along with reading or learning disabilities
  • Hearing impairments
  • Hyperactivity, reduced attention span and behavioral problems
  • Growth problems, nerve damage and loss of motor skills

Unfortunately, lead paint is still in many homes, and some toys and jewelry from abroad has also been found to contain it.

New York law requires children to be tested for lead exposure at age one and two, but children up to age six are considered at high risk for lead poisoning. Unfortunately, symptoms may not be evident until too late. According to 2008 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in New York, lead poisoning is most common in Oneida, Fulton and Montgomery counties, but only Hamilton County had virtually no cases.

Unfortunately, small children are not only most at risk from lead exposure but also the most likely to come into contact with it. Because they crawl on the floor and put things in their mouths, they can swallow tiny amounts of lead from dust, paint chips or lead-painted toys -- and a tiny amount is enough to cause lead poisoning.

If you suspect there could be lead in your home, wash your children's hands and toys frequently, even if they don't seem dirty. Mop your floors often and use damp cloths for dusting -- dry cloths just spread the dust around. Then, talk to your doctor about monitoring the lead levels in your children's blood.

New York landlords are required to notify tenants of any known lead paint hazards in the building. They're also required to keep their properties reasonably safe in general, which includes proper maintenance of walls with lead paint and using the proper lead abatement techniques during renovations. If your landlord hasn't done so, you may have a premises liability claim for the cost of your child's treatment and other damages.

Source: New York State Department of Health, "Lead Poisoning is a Danger for Every Baby and Child. Here's What You Should Know," June 2012

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