Q:

What is lead and how is it used?

A:

Lead is a metal found in natural deposits as ores containing other elements. It is sometimes used in household plumbing materials or in water service lines used to bring water from the main to the home. Lead and lead compounds are used in storage batteries, ammunition, metal products (solder and pipes), roofing, gasoline, and devices to shield people from x-rays, among many other products. Because of health concerns, lead has been banned from gasoline, ceramic products, paints for residential use, and solder used on food cans.

Q:

Why is Lead being regulated?

A:

In 1974, Congress passed the Safe Drinking Water Act. This law requires EPA to determine safe levels of chemicals in drinking water which do or may cause health problems. These non-enforceable levels, based solely on possible health risks and exposure, are called Maximum Contaminant Level Goals (MCLG). The MCLG for lead has been set at zero because EPA believes this level of protection would not cause any of the potential health problems described below.

Since lead contamination generally occurs from corrosion of household lead pipes, it cannot be directly detected or removed by the water system. Instead, EPA is requiring water systems to control the corrosiveness of their water if the level of lead at home taps exceeds an Action Level.

The Action Level for lead has been set at 15 parts per billion (ppb) because EPA believes, given present technology and resources, this is the lowest level to which water systems can reasonably be required to control this contaminant should it occur in drinking water at their customers home taps.

These drinking water standards and the regulations for ensuring these standards are met, are called National Primary Drinking Water Regulations. All public water supplies must abide by these regulations.

Q:

What are the health effects?

A:

Lead can cause a variety of adverse health effects when people are exposed to it at levels above the MCL for relatively short periods of time. These effects may include interference with red blood cell chemistry, delays in normal physical and mental development in babies and young children, slight deficits in the attention span, hearing, and learning abilities of children, and slight increases in the blood pressure of some adults. Lead has the potential to cause stroke, kidney disease, and cancer from lifetime exposure at levels above the MCL.

Q:

How much Lead is produced and released to the environment?

A:

Lead may occur in drinking water either by contamination of the source water used by the water system, or by corrosion of lead plumbing or fixtures. Corrosion of plumbing is by far the greatest cause for concern. All water is corrosive to metal plumbing materials to some degree. Grounding of household electrical systems to plumbing may also exacerbate corrosion. Over time, lead-containing plumbing materials will usually develop a scale that minimizes further corrosion of the pipe.

Lead is rarely found in source water, but lead mining and smelting operations may be sources of contamination. Eighty eight percent of the lead mined in the US comes from seven mines in the New Lead Belt in southeastern Missouri. From 1987 to 1993, according to the Toxics Release Inventory, lead compound releases to land and water totaled nearly 144 million lbs. These releases were primarily from lead and copper smelting industries. The largest releases occurred in Missouri, oklahoma and Montana.

Q:

What happens to Lead when it is released to the environment?

A:

When released to land, lead binds to soils and does not migrate to ground water. In water, it binds to sediments. It does not accumulate in fish, but does in some shellfish, such as mussels.

Q:

How will Lead be detected in and removed from my drinking water?

A:

The regulation for lead became effective in 1992. Between 1993 and 1995, EPA required your water supplier to collect water samples from household taps twice a year and analyze them to find out if lead is present above 15 ppb in more than 10 percent of all homes tested. If it is present above this level, the system must continue to monitor this contaminant twice a year.

If contaminant levels are found to be consistently above the Action level, your water supplier must take steps to reduce the amount of lead so that it is consistently below that level. The treatment method approved by EPA for controlling lead is corrosion control.

Q:

How will I know if Lead is in my drinking water?

A:

If the levels of lead exceed the Action Level, the system must notify the public via newspapers, radio, TV and other means. Customers will be informed of what they can do at home to lower their exposure to lead. Additional actions, such as providing alternative drinking water supplies, may be required to prevent serious risks to public health.

Q:

What is a Pesticide?

A:

A pesticide is any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest. Pests can be insects, mice and other animals, unwanted plants (weeds), fungi, or microorganisms like bacteria and viruses. Though often misunderstood to refer only to insecticides, the term pesticide also applies to herbicides, fungicides, and various other substances used to control pests. Under United States law, a pesticide is also any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.
Some common household pesticides:

  • Cockroach sprays and baits 
  • Insect repellents for personal use.
  • Rat and other rodent poisons.
  • Flea and tick sprays, powders, and pet collars.
  • Kitchen, laundry, and bath disinfectants and sanitizers.
  • Products that kill mold and mildew.
  • Some lawn and garden products, such as weed killers. 
  • Some swimming pool chemicals.

Q:

How do I select a reputable exterminator?

A:

Shop around. Ask to see a current pesticide applicator's license. Ask for the names of chemicals that the applicator would be using, the rates of application of products he is suggesting. Ask if their are less toxic alternatives. Ask about Integrated Pest Management (IPM).

Call your Regional EPA office or State Lead Agency for additional information regarding the products proposed by the pesticide applicator.

Q:

What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?

A:

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is a system of practices designed to choose the most economical and environmentally friendly course of action in controlling pests. Fundamental to IPM is the concept of "Know what the problem is before you apply pesticides". Hence, scouting the crops for pest infestation, and comparing the cost of pest damage with the threshold cost of pesticide application helps to reach a decision on when to spray or not to spray. Crop rotation is also a practice in the IPM tool kit which can reduce the need for pesticides to control such damaging pests as the corn rootworm and soybean cyst nematode.

Q:

What can I do if I think my neighbor's pesticide application has drifted over to my property?

A:

Immediately report this situation to the State Lead Agency. They will asses the situation and if warranted, make an on-site inspection. If you feel that you have been directly exposed to this pesticide drift, please contact your local health care provider. If you feel that you have been injured or harmed as a result, contact our office immediately.

Q:

I'm chemically sensitive, how can I be notified if my neighbors have applied pesticides?

A:

There is no Federal law requiring pesticide notification, however some communities have Chemical Registers and Notification Laws. Check with your community for additional information.

Q:

Where can I obtain information about pesticide residues on raw and processed foods?

A:

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United Stated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) both monitor foods for pesticide residues and publish annual reports. Copies of the USDA Pesticide Data Program annual report are available from the USDA by calling (202)720-2158.

Q:

Where can I have my drinking water tested for pesticides?

A:

The answer depends on whether your water comes from a well on your property or public water supply company, and the type of pesticide contamination you believe may be present.

a) If your water is from a public water supply, contact your State drinking water official located in your State environmental agency. They can tell you whether your water is regularly tested for that type of pesticide and how much, if any, has ever been found.

b) If you have a private well or if your water has not been tested for that type of pesticide, contact your State pesticide program (link to their webpage). They can assist you in determining whether testing is warranted, choosing the type of analysis to be performed, identify laboratories capable of performing the analysis, and determining the significance of testing results.

Q:

My neighbor applied a pesticide. I am concerned that the pesticide is now also on my property [e.g. vegetable garden, private well, etc.]. What can I do?

A:

Ask your neighbor which pesticide they applied and ask to read the label on the container. The label contains a great deal of information. If you still have questions or are concerned, you call the U.S. EPA or your State Lead Agency.

Q:

What is the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA)?

A:

A new law that amends the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and establishes a strong, health-based safety standard for pesticide residues in all foods. It uses "a reasonable certainty of no harm" as the general safety standard, the same approach used in the Administration's 1994 bill. A single, health-based standard eliminates longstanding problems posed by multiple standards for pesticides in raw and processed foods. It requires EPA to consider all non-occupational sources of exposure, including drinking water, and exposure to other pesticides with a common mechanism of toxicity when setting tolerances.

Q:

What is Mold?

A:

Mold, a common term for fungus, attacks organic materials such as paper, books, cloth, photographs, and leather. Mold grows from spores, which are everywhere in our environment. Usually these spores are inactive, but they will germinate when the relative humidity exceeds 70 percent. Temperatures above 65 degrees increase the likelihood of mold growth.

Q:

What does it look like?

A:

Active mold growth is slimy or fuzzy and is usually green, black, orange or purple. Inactive mold is dry and powdery and may be white. In early stages, the mold may look like a fine web; in full bloom it looks bushy. Mold spores spread easily; they are carried by air currents, pets and people.

Q:

What harm can it do?

A:

Active mold "digests" organic materials such as cloth book covers or the cellulose that composes paper. It can also make permanent stains.

Q:

Is mold dangerous to humans?

A:

It can be hazardous to people with respiratory problems. Only a few species are toxic, but many can cause allergic reactions or irritate skin. If you handle moldy materials, work outdoors when possible and wear protective clothing: respirator mask with filter, disposable plastic gloves and clothing you can wash in very hot water or discard. If you are concerned about the toxicity of the mold, your local hospital can refer you to a mycologist.

Q:

How do I know if I have a mold problem?

A:

The presence of mold can usually be seen or smelled if is present in large amounts. Smaller infestations may require professional cleaning or testing in order to detect.

Q:

I heard about toxic molds that grow in homes and other buildings. Should I be concerned about a serious health risk to me and my family?

A:

The hazards presented by molds that may contain mycotoxins should be considered the same as other common molds which can grow in your house. There is always a little mold everywhere - in the air and on many surfaces. There are very few case reports that toxic molds (those containing certain mycotoxins) inside homes can cause unique or rare, health conditions such as pulmonary hemorrhage or memory loss. These case reports are rare, and a causal link between the presence of the toxic mold and these conditions has not been proven. A common-sense approach should be used for any mold contamination existing inside buildings and homes. The common health concerns from molds include hay-fever like allergic symptoms. Certain individuals with chronic respiratory disease (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder, asthma) may experience difficulty breathing. Individuals with immune suppression may be at increased risk for infection from molds. If you or your family members have these conditions, a qualified medical clinician should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment. For the most part, one should take routine measures to prevent mold growth in the home.

Q:

How can I stop mold from spreading?

A:

  1. Work Fast. Under the right conditions, mold can spread and grow quickly. 
  2. Lower the humidity and temperature. Remember that mold cannot grow in low relative humidity and low temperature. Open the windows if outside humidity is lower than inside; otherwise, use air conditioning. Install dehumidifiers and empty them often. 
  3. Isolate any moldy objects. Seal moldy trash in plastic bags and remove them immediately. Objects you can save should be dried or frozen as soon as possible. Freezing inactivates mold. 
  4. Keep the area clean. Mold may remain on shelves and in cupboards where valuables were kept. Clean these surfaces with a disinfectant such as Lysol, and then increase air circulation in the room. Use fans only after moldy objects are removed and all display and storage areas are clean. 

Q:

How can I save moldy possessions?

A:

  1. Air dry them away from other objects. Spread out papers, stand books on end and fan the pages open. Use blotting materials like clean towels or absorbent paper between layers of cloth or paper. Increase air circulation with a fan, but don't aim the fan directly at the objects. 
  2. If you can't dry the objects quickly or you have a large quantity, you can freeze books, documents and small textiles until conditions are right to dry them. Do not freeze moldy photographs. 
  3. Although ultraviolet light can be damaging, brief exposure to sunlight can stop mold growth and aid drying. Exposure should not exceed 30 minutes. 
  4. Clean the mold only after it is dry and inactive. Very gently wipe or brush away the mold residue. Work outdoors if possible and always wear protective clothing and a respirator. 
  5. Avoid harsh cleaning products and bleach; they can ruin objects. Never vacuum fragile items. Use a household vacuum cleaner outdoors, since the exhaust will spread mold spores. 
  6. Be sure display and storage areas are free of mold before you return any clean object to its proper place. Re-inspect the objects from time to time for any new mold growth. 
  7. Valuable artifacts and photographs should be handled by a professional conservator. If you would like a free referral for a conservator, you may contact the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, 1717 K Street, NW, Ste. 301, Washington, D.C. 20036; (202) 452-9545; fax;(202) 452-9328. 

Q:

Are there any circumstances where people should vacate a home or other building because of mold?

A:

These decisions have to be made individually. If you believe you are ill because of exposure to mold in a building, you should consult your physician to determine the appropriate action to take.