Want to see a visual of how much lead dust it takes to poison a child? Please watch the 2.5 minute trailer to the documentary film I directed on the subject:
- Here’s some background for helping you to understand how much lead in house dust it takes to poison a child:
- Lead in dust on floors is considered toxic at levels that is far too low to be measured by an XRF instrument.
- The long-held Federal (U.S.) standard at which Lead was considered unsafe in house dust was “40 micrograms of Lead per square foot” and above.
- The current updated recommendation (and, hopefully, the soon-to-be confirmed new official Federal standard) is that Lead should be considered unsafe in an child’s environment when floor levels are at or above “10 micrograms of Lead dust per square foot.“
- The scientific recommendation that is the most protective of children’s health [as cited by Dr. Bruce Lanphear in my documentary film] is actually that the hazard level for Lead found in floor dust should really be set at no more than “5 micrograms of Lead per square foot.” Doctors and researchers have been aware that this level was enough to be toxic to children since Dr. Lanphear’s work in the 1990s.
But Tamara, what does that MEAN exactly? What does 5, 10 or 40 micrograms of Lead per square foot LOOK LIKE?
For context, I offer the “sugar packet-football field” illustration that so many scientists (including Howard Mielke) have shared with me over the years:
- Consider that an amount of Lead dust equal in volume to one little SUGAR PACKET if spread evenly across an area equal to the size of a football field would create a dust hazard level of about 38 micrograms of Lead per square foot!…
- Imagine a sugar packet’s worth of lead dust.
- Now imagine the nearly impossible idea of that amount of dust spread evenly across the surface of an entire football field.
- Hopefully now you can visualize why the dust level that is considered toxic is not even detectable using an XRF instrument [to detect this type of hazard requires an even-more-sensitive laboratory digestive analysis of a carefully-collected dust-wipe sample]!
Said another way:
- If one sugar packet worth of lead dust would result in nearly 40 micrograms of lead in dust per square foot for a football field then…
- One QUARTER of a sugar packet’s worth of lead dust would result in a lead in dust level of about 10 micrograms per square foot across a football field – and then…
- One EIGHTH of a sugar packet’s worth of lead dust would result in lead in dust levels of about 5 micrograms of lead per square foot.
Can you imagine 1/8 of a sugar packet worth of lead dust spread across a football field? Can you imagine what that would look like? The amount of lead in house dust that is toxic to children is invisible to the naked eye.
Tonight (3/2/2019) someone asked me a related question: How could I assert that “swallowing a single paint chip would be enough to poison a child”? [possibly to a signifiant and serious level of lead poisoning – even possibly life-threatening – depending on the level of lead in the paint and the size of the paint chip!]
Here’s a simple answer: If a paint chip is of paint that has a high lead content, and that paint chip is large enough to be visible to the naked eye, by default (based on the sugar packet illustration above) that is a significant amount of Lead for a child to ingest. It is a much greater concern than any of the dust levels above – all of which are invisible to the naked eye, yet have been thoroughly scientifically-documented as enough of a hazard to easily poison a child.
As always, thank you for reading and for sharing my posts.
Please let me know if you have any questions.