How Long Does Lead Dust Stay in the Air?

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Written By Jamila W.
lead hazard sign

Lead dust has long been known as a dangerous environmental pollutant. Children are especially at risk for lead poisoning because of how quickly lead is metabolized by growing bodies and how easily their developing nervous systems and brains are damaged. 

Due to the tendency to put their hands and other things that may contain lead into their mouths, young children and babies are also greatly more likely to be exposed to lead. Additionally, playing with toys painted with lead paint can result in lead dust inhalation from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil. 

Children can be exposed to lead through dishes and glasses that contain lead, as well as through food, water, and lead-containing dishes and glasses. This article examines everything you need to know about lead dust and how to deal with it. How long does lead stay in the air? We will cover the following topics;

  1. Lead inhalation prevention measures
  2. Sources of Lead Dust
  3. Methods of getting rid of lead dust
  4. Symptoms of lead poisoning
  5. The effects of breathing lead
  6. Air purifiers can help deal with lead poisoning.

Keep reading to find out about this and much more;

Sources of Lead in the Air

Lead was used in paints even before 1978 for two major reasons, one of which was that it helped to cover the wall surface completely.

Another reason for this is that, when compared to paints without lead, they have been shown to be longer lasting. 

After it was discovered that lead-based paints were unhealthy, the federal government banned their use of paint.

Motor vehicles used leaded gasoline, and the fumes from these vehicles were one of the sources of airborne lead poisoning. 

The United States banned the use of leaded gasoline in 1996.

Depending on the area, various ways lead fumes enter the atmosphere. The two largest national sources of lead in the air are metal processing and piston-engine aircraft that use leaded aviation gasoline. Waste can also come from utilities, incinerators, and lead-acid battery producers. People usually breathe in the highest concentrations of lead in lead smelters. Other sources of lead include lead batteries and waste incinerators.

Lead was removed from gasoline for motor vehicles as part of EPA-led initiatives, which resulted in a 98 percent decrease in lead levels in the air since 1980.

Some industrial and mining activities might result in high levels of lead in the soil. Roadside soil in regions with a history of heavy traffic may still contain lead that was deposited from exhaust fumes before the banning of lead from leaded gasoline.

Lead can be found in household dust from various sources, including degraded lead-based paint, polluted soil, and dust transported into the home.

Copper and lead smelters may release lead into the air. Lead can be released into the air in small quantities during car battery operations, iron and steel production, and lead-based soldering.

Lead is used in several hobbies, including lead lighting, ceramics with lead glazes, producing or working with lead sinkers for fishing, and recreational gun shooting (including firing at the range).

Effects of Breathing in Lead

It could negatively affect many parts of the body. It could be harmful in a few instances. Lead can enter the circulation because it builds up in the bones, liver, and kidneys. The negative effects of lead poisoning can continue even after removing the lead exposure source.

Lead’s effects on the nervous system are most dangerous to adults and children. Due to the continuous growth of their brains, children are more at risk for the long-term effects of lead contamination. Exposure to lead dust can cause the following;

  • Damaged brain cells
  • Affect behavior
  • Impaired intelligence

There are some acute effects of lead exposure. They include;

  • Paralysis
  • Seizures 
  • Anemia 
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Vomiting
  • Decreased appetite
  • Death

Some people working in factories usually get exposed to lead for long periods. Such exposure is unhealthy, and it can cause harmful effects. Let’s look at the long-term effects of lead exposure;

  • Permanent brain damage
  • Kidney failure
  • High blood pressure
  • Damaged reproductive system

When lead is absorbed and stored in your bones, it can affect your body’s calcium absorption. A child can be exposed to lead if the mother works in an environment of lead dust. Exposure can happen during pregnancy or breastfeeding. The EPA believes lead is among the leading causes of cancer in humans.

How to Prevent Lead Pollution

Some simple measures like cleaning your home at all times can help you prevent lead pollution. Take these steps to lower your chances of lead exposure in your home;

  • Always check and maintain all painted surfaces. This will prevent deterioration of the paint which might release lead dust.
  • Take care of your water drainage system. Replace old lead pipes to prevent contaminations.
  • Keep your home clean and free from dust at all times.
  • Clean around areas with paint where there is friction or rubbing. When surfaces are rubbed against each other, they produce dust. If the painted surfaces are painted with lead paint, it will produce lead dust. Wipe these areas with a wet sponge or damp cloth to reduce pollution.
  • Always use cold water when preparing food or drinks.
  • Flush the water outlets used for food preparation or drinking. Ensure that the water is always running to prevent deterioration.
  • Outlet screens or faucet aerators remove clean particles. Please don’t allow yourself or your children to come into contact with them.
  • Often wash the hands of your children and toys. Also, wipe the surfaces they usually touch and play with. This will prevent any lead from getting into their mouth when they touch it.
  • Ensure your children are taught how to wipe their hands and clean their shoes after playing outside. This will get rid of any lead particles they might have picked up outside.
  • Always eat a balanced diet. Studies have shown that a family that eats a balanced meal absorbs less lead into their bodies.
  • Make sure your contractor is lead-safe certified before allowing them to carry out any repairs or renovations in your home. This guarantees they can get the job done without exposing you to lead pollution.
  • Remove all lead hazards from your home or environment before you and your children get exposed. It is an effective way of preventing harmful long-term effects.
  • Testing your blood for lead exposure so that you can prevent further exposure to pollution.

How to Get Rid of Lead Dust

Lead dust is a harmful pollutant. They can affect you and your family’s health when inhaled. There are several methods you can use to get rid of lead dust. Below we have explained the methods you can use to remove lead dust and other air pollutants;

Regular Washing of Hands and Body

Wash your kid’s hands and face with soap and water often. Before eating and going to bed, make sure your child’s hands and face are both clean.

Make sure to regularly wash toys, bottles, and pacifiers in soapy water. Playthings that have fallen to the ground should not be used until they have been thoroughly cleaned with soap and water. Your youngster shouldn’t eat any food that has fallen to the ground.

Using a HEPA Filter Vacuum cleaner

Lead can be cleaned up with a specialized vacuum known as a High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter (HEPA) vacuum. A unique filter on the HEPA vacuum can capture and hold small pieces of lead.

Another choice is to clean up the wash or rinse water by using a wet/dry vacuum on the wet setting. Keep at least two inches of water in the bottom of the bottle whenever you use the wet/dry vacuum. Water will help keep the lead dust in place. When cleaning up lead, only vacuum up the wash or rinse water using the wet/dry vacuum. Do not pick up lead paint chips or dry dust with the wet/dry vacuum.

Never clean up paint dust or chips off walls, floors, window sills, or wells with your household vacuum cleaner. Once the lead has been removed, household vacuum cleaners can be used for routine cleaning tasks. But when it comes to removing lead, a normal vacuum cleaner filter cannot capture the tiny pieces of floor dust lead; instead, it might release lead dust into the air. This will pollute the air you breathe.

Wet Washing 

Wet Washing is the most effective way of getting rid of lead dust. You can wet wash windows, walls, door frames, and floors to remove lead dust. Below are simple steps you can follow to effectively wet wash your home;

  1. Get Two Buckets – a bucket for the cleaning solution and a bucket for the clean rising water. Each bucket is well-marked. While you are wet washing, be sure to put on rubber gloves that are waterproof and chemical resistant. Keep kids away from all cleaners, including this one.
  2. Create a cleaning solution with water and a common detergent. Follow the instructions on the box while mixing.
  3. If you find any loose paint chips or other materials in the window wells, sills, door frames, or flooring, pick it up. Fill the double-walled garbage bags with the paint chips and other particles. Close the bag.
  4. With the cleaning solution, give the walls, floors, door frames, window wells, and sills a thorough cleaning. Use a pair of separate sets of paper towels or disposable rags—one set for the rinse stage and the other set for the washing stage.
  5. Using a fresh disposable rag or paper towel and clean water, rinse the area you just cleaned with a cleaning solution. You should use a different paper towel or rag when washing and rinsing.
  6. The paint chips, paper towels, and rags should all be placed in a double-walled garbage bag. Close the bag. Keep children and pets away from the bag. To find out how to dispose of the lead scrap at a household hazardous waste collection location or toss it in the trash for pickup, contact your county offices.

Sanitize Household Items

It’s also important to clean all household products that may have come into contact with lead. For counters, doors, handles, etc., a solution of household detergent and water (1 teaspoon of soap to 1 cup of water in a spray bottle) works well.

Keep two piles when cleaning to be sure that anything that comes into contact with lead dust lands on the contaminated side.

Get Rid of Contaminated Items

Seal the cleaning items you used to remove the lead dust in a garbage bag to make sure you get all of the extra lead dust out of your house. Remodeling waste and objects that come into contact with lead-based paint can be disposed of properly in a landfill as general waste to prevent lead dust from spreading.

In simple terms, seek professional advice when in doubt about lead dust. Even while lead exposure (in small quantities) might not be harmful to an adult, it’s best to be safe than sorry when children are involved.

Clean Renovated Areas

Most likely, the section you recently renovated is where the lead dust in your home came from. Remove any visible lead remains, including paint chips, from the area. Use the following to reduce your exposure when cleaning up:

  • One set of gloves
  • Long pants and shirts with long sleeves
  • A garbage bag
  • A pair of glasses

Read up on the most recent version of the Environmental Protection Agency lead paint removal safety recommendations first.

Clean Using Chemical Strippers 

Chemical Strippers are among the best methods of getting rid of lead dust. You must consider the following factors before Choosing the Strippers;

  • Absence of Methylene Chloride – This is a common paint stripper that has harmful chemicals. It produces poisonous fumes when combined with lead dust.
  • Thickness – a thick stripper would make it easier to contain the lead dust. This will make the cleaning process easier.
  • Chemical Properties – the best lead stripper should have a chemical compound that reacts with lead dust on a molecular level. This ensures that you get rid of lead dust while maintaining safety.

You can wear safety glasses and rubber gloves as a safety measure when using this method to get rid of lead dust. The overalls and gloves must be chemically resistant. Also, ensure the area is well-ventilated when using this method.

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning can affect people differently. The symptoms shown usually depend on the level of exposure or age. Some children and adults may not have any symptoms at all.

Symptoms of Lead Exposure in Children

Adults and children experience different symptoms when exposed to lead. Children under the age of 6 are usually more at risk after being exposed. This is because their bodies are still developing due to rapid growth. Below are the symptoms of lead poisoning in children:

  • Delayed body development
  • Loss of appetite
  • Difficulty in learning
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Seizures
  • Hearing impairment
  • Pain in the abdomen
  • Vomiting

Symptoms of Lead Exposure in Adults

Adults should seek treatment when exposed to high levels of lead poisoning. The exposure might have health effects, especially on elderly people. Below are the symptoms of lead poisoning in adults:

  • Pain in muscles and joints
  • High blood pressure
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings 
  • Headaches
  • Reduces sperm count and abnormal sperm.
  • Miscarriages or premature births for pregnant women
  • Headaches 

Do Air Purifiers Help with Lead Dust

Lead naturally occurs in the environment. Human activities disturb the environment and cause lead pollution. Lead particles are small and can travel a long distance in the atmosphere. You can use an air purifier to reduce the lead particles from the air. Some air purifiers come with HEPA filters and are effective in capturing tiny lead dust particles. You can use it in your home during renovations to reduce lead poisoning and the chances of you and your family inhaling lead dust.


Best Air Purifier for Lead Dust (Blueair DustMagnet 5410i Air Purifier)

Blueair DustMagnet 5410i Air Purifier

The air purifier design has been redefined with the DustMagnet 5410i. Even as it works to purify the air, it is designed to integrate into your space with its streamlined lines and tabletop surface.

The company claims that up to 99% of dust can be captured by BlueAir’s patent-pending DustMagnet technology before it settles. This is due to cutting-edge HEPA technology, which captures particles using an electrostatic charge and a dual air intake system. This feature makes the air purifier perfect for dealing with lead dust. The HEPA filters can capture the tiniest particles in the air.

Additionally, compared to normal air purifiers, it is incredibly quiet. Up to 1,713 square feet can be cleaned using the DustMagnet 5410i.

The DustMagnet also has a five-color LED on the exterior that displays air quality on a scale from highly polluted to excellent. It works with the BlueAir companion app, which includes a variety of helpful features and is compatible with smart devices.

As you enter and leave your home, the air purifier is automatically turned on and off by the Welcome Home feature.

Pros:

  • Has smart device connectivity
  • It is very quiet
  • Can get rid of tiny airborne particles
  • It has a unique sleek design
  • Certificate by HEPA silent technology 

Cons:

  • The air purifier is expensive 
Check It Out

Frequently Asked Questions

How Quickly Does Lead Dust Settle?

Lead Dust takes a long time before settling back on the ground. Airborne lead mass settled within an hour. If you disturb a pile of lead dust or lead paint, it will take up to 1 hour before it settles.

What Happens When You Breathe in Lead Dust?

You will get lead poisoning when you breathe in lead dust. At high levels of exposure, it attacks the brain and central nervous system. It can lead to convulsions or even cause death.

Can Lead Dust be Airborne?

Lead particles are very small, and they can travel a long distance once they get into the air. They are very light and can be carried by the air currents. 

How Do You Remove Lead Dust From the Air?

You can remove lead dust from the air using a HEPA air filter vacuum. It has a HEPA filter that is capable of capturing the tiniest particles. It will remove lead dust from the air and improve your indoor air quality.

Conclusion

The health of you and your family is not likely to be improved by lead dust in the air. Lead dust stays in the air for long periods. If lead dust is in the air, it is either swallowed or inhaled by people. 

Throughout the lead removal process, lead dust hangs around in the air for nearly an hour. It is fine dust and remains in the air for a few hours. 

By using a HEPA air purifier, you can either minimize or completely reduce lead exposure. Or you need to stick to preventive measures to avoid lead poisoning.