Poisoning America’s Children: Part 2

alice26bIn part 1 of this series on the Poisoning of America’s Children, I gave you a little idea of how toxic mercury can be to the children of this country.  I promised to tell you just how this toxic metal is going to be reintroduced to your homes, but before that I thought it might help for you to learn a little bit about another toxic metal that can cause extreme harm to children, lead.

Lead at one time was used in numerous products found around the home.  It was used in solders for connecting copper piping and electronic devices.  If one opened a wine bottle, they would remove a lead foil covering before pulling the cork.  One would find lead weights in a fishing tackle box.  At Christmas time, you would place lead foil on the tree as the “tinsel” on the tree.  The family car would be fueled with gasline that contained tetraethyllead.  But, the one place that very few people knew that lead was in was on the walls of their home in the form of paint.

Lead was used in paint as a pigment and a corrosion inhibitor.  A person would literally go out and buy “White Lead” paint because of the incredible white color that it would produce when applied.  Since white was also the “base” of all paints, it was found across the spectrum of paints when the coloring pigments were added.  All in all, lead was found through out the home.

The element lead has been known for centuries as being a toxic material.  If handled correctly the element presents almost no hazard, but when ingested it will build up to toxic levels which are almost impossible to remove from the body.  Since it is also a neurotoxin, just like mercury, it can contribute damage to the brain and nervous systems.  You can read more about the effects of lead at, Toxicological Profile for Lead

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For a long time in America and abroad no one ever thought twice about lead in the home.  The children in suburban and rural areas showed very little, if any lead in their blood.  One area showed a disturbing trend though and that was inner cities.  Many thought it was due to the manufacturing that was present in America’s cities at that time, but studies could not confirm that.  It was only after someone connected the eating of paint chips by children of the impoverished that the explanation of how lead was introduced into their bodies was explained.  Although the connection between the eating of paint chips by children and lead poisoning became very well understood, it took a fair amount of time to get the federal government to act.  It was with the passing of the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988 that the CDC was allowed to develop the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program.  This program aggressively moved to eliminate the possibility of children coming in contact with lead.  Even with this bill, congress has continued to try to pass even more restrictive legislation.  Two of these bills, the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act of 2006 and the Lead Poisoning Reduction Act of 2007 were introduced by a senator whose name you might know.

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I had not intended to spend a large amount of time on the subject of lead poisoning, since this series is suppose to concern mercury, but I felt it was important to show you just how congress has taken the subject of heavy metal poisoning very serious when it comes to the children of this country.  The actions that congress took to try and remove lead from the environment that a child might be in have gone to the extreme.  Because of this, it has to come as a shock to find them reversing their position of concern when it comes to mercury.  If you wish to learn more about lead and how it can be controlled, I would suggest you visit the EPA site on the subject.

The question that has to be asked now is why would congress pass a law that forces people to bring a material, more dangerous than lead, into the home?  That answer is easy, it is called H.R. 6: Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007.  We will cover that in the next part of the series.  Until then here is the clean up procedure that the United States Department of Environmental Protection has devised for you to use it you should break a CFL.

What to Do if a Compact Fluorescent Light (CFL) Bulb or Fluorescent Tube Light Bulb Breaks in Your Home: Detailed Recommendations

 Before Cleanup

  • Have people and pets leave the room, and avoid the breakage area on the way out.
  • Open a window or door to the outdoors and leave the room for 5-10 minutes.
  • Shut off the central forced-air heating/air conditioning (H&AC) system, if you have one.
  • Collect materials you will need to clean up the broken bulb:
    • Stiff paper or cardboard
    • Sticky tape (e.g., duct tape)
    • Damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes (for hard surfaces)
    • Glass jar with a metal lid (such as a canning jar) or a sealable plastic bag(s)
    •  

Cleanup Steps for Hard Surfaces

  • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Wipe the area clean with damp paper towels or disposable wet wipes. Place the towels in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Vacuuming of hard surfaces during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.] If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:
    • Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;  
    • Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available; and 
    • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.
    • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.

 

Cleanup Steps for Carpeting or Rugs

  • Carefully scoop up glass fragments and powder using stiff paper or cardboard and place debris and paper/cardboard in a glass jar with a metal lid. If a glass jar is not available, use a sealable plastic bag. (NOTE: Since a plastic bag will not prevent the mercury vapor from escaping, remove the plastic bag(s) from the home after cleanup.)
  • Use sticky tape, such as duct tape, to pick up any remaining small glass fragments and powder. Place the used tape in the glass jar or plastic bag.
  • Vacuuming of carpeting or rugs during cleanup is not recommended unless broken glass remains after all other cleanup steps have been taken. [NOTE: It is possible that vacuuming could spread mercury-containing powder or mercury vapor, although available information on this problem is limited.] If vacuuming is needed to ensure removal of all broken glass, keep the following tips in mind:
    • Keep a window or door to the outdoors open;
    • Vacuum the area where the bulb was broken using the vacuum hose, if available, and 
    • Remove the vacuum bag (or empty and wipe the canister) and seal the bag/vacuum debris, and any materials used to clean the vacuum, in a plastic bag.
  • Promptly place all bulb debris and cleanup materials, including vacuum cleaner bags, outdoors in a trash container or protected area until materials can be disposed of properly.
    • Check with your local or state government about disposal requirements in your area. Some states and communities require fluorescent bulbs (broken or unbroken) be taken to a local recycling center.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water after disposing of the jars or plastic bags containing bulb debris and cleanup materials.
  • Continue to air out the room where the bulb was broken and leave the H&AC system shut off, as practical, for several hours.

 

Future Cleaning of Carpeting or Rugs: Air Out the Room During and After Vacuuming

  • The next several times you vacuum the rug or carpet, shut off the H&AC system if you have one, close the doors to other rooms, and open a window or door to the outside before vacuuming. Change the vacuum bag after each use in this area.
  • After vacuuming is completed, keep the H&AC system shut off and the window or door to the outside open, as practical, for several hours.  

 

Actions You Can Take to Prevent Broken Compact Fluorescent Light Bulbs

Fluorescent bulbs are made of glass and can break if dropped or roughly handled. To avoid breaking a bulb, follow these general practices:

  • Always switch off and allow a working CFL bulb to cool before handling.
  • Always handle CFL bulbs carefully to avoid breakage. 
    • If possible, screw/unscrew the CFL by holding the plastic or ceramic base, not the glass tubing. 
    • Gently screw in the CFL until snug. Do not over-tighten.
    • Never forcefully twist the glass tubing.
  • Consider not using CFLs in lamps that can be easily knocked over, in unprotected light fixtures, or in lamps that are incompatible with the spiral or folded shape of many CFLs.
  • Do not use CFL bulbs in locations where they can easily be broken, such as play spaces.
  • Use CFL bulbs that have a glass or plastic cover over the spiral or folded glass tube, if available. These types of bulbs look more like incandescent bulbs and may be more durable if dropped.
  • Consider using a drop cloth (e.g., plastic sheet or beach towel) when changing a fluorescent light bulb in case a breakage should occur. The drop cloth will help prevent mercury contamination of nearby surfaces and can be bundled with the bulb debris for disposal.
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One Comment

  1. Jim Schol says:

    You might want to add that when you wash your hands after dealing with lead, do so with COLD after rather than the warm water we usually do. This keeps the pores of the skin more closed and less suseptable to having lead enter through the skin. Just a thought.


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