After Centuries, Lead Poisoning Still Remains A Dangerous Threat Despite Being Preventable

11/30/2011 |

Some time ago, back when the only mode of transportation was a horse and buggy, a wise man by the name of Benjamin Franklin wrote a letter to a concerned friend about the dangers of working around the "mischievous effects" of lead. Old Ben's advice and experiences were very clear: Lead exposure has horrible consequences, but the condition is completely preventable.

Ben Franklin first experienced the effects of lead exposure in a Boston distillery, where people drinking rum from lead-laden "still-heads" experienced "dry bellyache" with a "loss of the use of their limbs." While working as a typesetter in New England print houses, Ben Franklin also noticed a kind of “obscure pain” in his hands as he dried them over the heated lead types, and omitted the practice after getting advice not to do so from an older workman. The workman later admitted that the condition probably arose from “slovenly workmen who went to their meals after handling the metal,” without “well-washing their fingers.” Ben Franklin mused that people will “observe with concern how long useful truth may be known, and exists before it is generally received and practiced on.” Keep in mind, he wrote this letter in 1786.

Some 225 years later, we as a society are still dealing with the “mischievous effects” of lead, but the effects aren’t as mysterious as they were back in Franklin’s day. Doctors have traced the effects of lead poisoning in children to numerous conditions, such as: ADD, ADHD, autism, learning disabilities, decreased intelligence, violent outbursts, retardation, convulsions, and in the worst cases, coma and death. Children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, almost 50 percent more susceptible than adults, as lead attacks the central nervous system and wreaks havoc on a body system that is still in the early stages of development.

To help prevent this horrible and life-altering condition in children, the EPA has promulgated the Renovation, Repair and Painting Program Final Rule, known simply as the RRP Rule, to help fight the effects of lead poisoning where it is most prevalent: in people’s homes. The RRP Rule is meant to govern work practices of renovators and contractors, by making them aware that their traditional work methods may be creating lead hazards without the worker even realizing it. At the core, the RRP Rule was passed with one main goal in mind: every child deserves to grow up healthy, and no child deserves to be poisoned by the home they live in.

The EPA is rigorously enforcing this new program, and failure to comply can result in fines of up to $37,500 per day for a contractor. Any renovator, painter, or other contractor that is working on homes built before 1978 must comply with the RRP rule if they will be disturbing paint. Compliance requires completion of an 8-hour lead-safety training course for business owners and supervisors, as well as company certification with the EPA.

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Today, Green Education Services has accepted Ben Franklin’s challenge: As a training provider for EPA lead-safety courses, GreenEDU has taken on the responsibility of providing renovators with the knowledge needed to put Lead Safe Work Practices in play. Many renovators still do not know about the ill effects of lead poisoning and how the work they do can subject children, tenants, and even themselves, to this unnecessary risk. With the guidance of EPA’s RRP rule, we at Green Education Services are striving to change this, one training course at a time.

Green Education Services
419 Lafayette St., 2nd FL
New York, NY 10003

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