Lead was once used in a variety of applications, but we’ve since soured on using it for just about everything. As a demolition contractor like Nielsen Environmental, can explain, the safe removal of lead is essential to the health and safety of occupants. While lead found common use in the buildings of yesterday, steps are being taken to completely eliminate its presence in construction, which oftentimes means going into old buildings to remove any traces of it.
Lead is well-known to be dangerous, but why was it used in the first place? Were people aware of the dangers of lead poisoning? And what should you look out for in terms of adverse health effects if you suspect your building has lead in it? Read on for a closer look at a well-known and potentially hazardous material, and how to best protect yourself from lead exposure.
Why Was Lead Used So Much?
Historically, lead has been used in construction since ancient times. Romans used lead pipes – it was a soft material with a low melting point that was easy to work with, and it resisted corrosion. This combination of strengths made it appealing for plumbing. Lead was also used as a pigment in makeup and paint, and after the industrial revolution, the usage and spread of lead grew even further. Of course, the health hazards of lead weren’t as well known as they are now, which means many older buildings have lead pipes and lead paint.
The health effects of lead poisoning can be severe and oftentimes permanent. Lead blindness, abdominal pain, infertility and memory problems can all result from lead exposure. Lead can also cause memory problems, intellectual disability, anemia, and death. Children are typically at most risk from lead poisoning in residential and commercial buildings, but those who work with lead professionally are the most vulnerable to lead-related health issues. Most lead exposure happens as a result of professional occupation (lead miners, or those who manufacture or recycle lead-acid batteries). Lead pipes and lead paint are other culprits, and the only way to ensure you are safe from lead exposure is to contact a qualified contractor to remove lead from your home or business.
The Journey of Lead
It’s important to understand where lead comes from, and where it ends up when contractors remove lead from a building. Lead is mined like any other mineral, and refined in plants and factories that produce – or produced – lead products. This includes lead pipes for plumbing. While lead pipes are no longer used for plumbing, they were used in almost all buildings built before 1986. Once lead is removed from a structure, it is safely disposed of by hazardous waste companies: this usually involves recycling, as lead is still used in certain applications.
Lead is still used today, but legislation prohibits its use in plumbing and makeup. Currently, lead finds use in car batteries and shielding in medical applications. If you suspect your house has lead plumbing or paint, contact a qualified residential demolition contractor to ensure it’s properly disposed of, and make your home happier and healthier today.