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Indoor health pollution can threaten anyone who spends time indoors. Surveys indicate that people in industrialized countries spend up to 90 per cent of their time indoors. It makes sense to learn more about possible contaminants and how they may affect your health.

Lead has long been a recognized environmental threat. Exposure to lead can occur through air, water, food, soil, dust and old paint. Before the dangers of lead were understood, it was also a key ingredient in gasoline, pipes and a variety of other products.

The most significant source of lead exposure in the United States today is from old lead-based paint. You can be exposed to harmful levels of lead when lead-based paint is being improperly removed by dry scraping, sanding, or open-flame burning. Other sources of lead exposure are lead dust from outside sources and the use of lead in some indoor hobby activities like soldering and making stained glass.

Lead produces damaging effects throughout the body. High levels of lead exposure can cause convulsions, coma and death. Low levels have negative effects on the brain, the central nervous system, blood cells and kidneys.

Effects on children include developmental delays, lowered IQs and behavioral problems. Lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies.

You can reduce the threat of exposure by keeping children's play areas clean and dust free. Most homes build before 1960 and some as recently as 1978 may have lead-based paint on window frames, walls or exterior surfaces. Avoid burning any painted wood.

If lead-based paint is in good condition, it is best to leave it alone. It probably won't create a problem unless some surfaces rub against each other and create dust.

If there is lead-based paint that needs to be removed, don't attempt to remove it yourself. Hire a specially trained contractor for the work, and leave the place until work is finished and cleanup is complete.

If you work in areas with lead exposure, be sure you avoid bringing any lead dust home. If you suspect lead in your drinking water, have it tested. Finally, eat right. Children who receive adequate amounts of iron and calcium will actually absorb less lead.