Concern for lead-based paint in nearly 80% of La Crosse homes

LA CROSSE, Wis. - About 75 to 80 percent of the homes in the La Crosse area were built before 1978.

That means those homes have a very good chance of containing lead-based paint, which was banned that year.

Depending on the amount of exposure, health officials said, it can take a child anywhere from a year to maybe four years to recover from lead poisoning.

On average, La Crosse County public health nurses make home visits to children with lead poisoning six to seven times a year.

If a home is not maintained properly, it could cause some pretty harmful damage, especially in children.

It's something that comes standard on every home, but La Crosse County Environmental Health Manager Jim Steinhoff said windows on older homes may be a health hazard to young children.


"Every time that window opens and closes, lead paint dust ends up on the windowsill," said Steinhoff. "Kids often like to come over and look out the window, (and) just the hand-to-mouth activity that many kids have, that's how they're being exposed to lead paint dust."

Steinhoff said up until it was banned, lead-based paint was a popular choice for homes built before 1978.

He said exposure to the paint dust from windows can cause behavioral issues, affect a child's IQ and has been linked to attention deficit disorder.

"The lifetime cost can be immeasurable if the child is not able to learn properly," said Steinhoff.

But it's not just the chipped paint from the windowsills. It's also painted steps.

"Every time you're walking on a painted surface, you're generating dust every time you set foot on it," said Steinhoff.

Lead-based paint can also be found on doorways.

"If we had a door here, it would be shutting and crushing the paint and creating the dust for the child," Steinhoff said, pointing to a doorway.

He said the best way to make sure your family is safe is to wash these areas once a week.

"That will greatly reduce the dust, which affect children the most," said Steinhoff.

He also said to replace the windows and paint if people can afford it, and keeping up with maintenance can help, too.

"There's plenty of homes in La Crosse that are old, but they've been maintained for their whole life, and those homes really don't pose a hazard," said Steinhoff.

Steinhoff said lead could even be found in types of wood varnishes and miniblinds.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently issued new standards saying to treat children when they have been lead-poisoned at 5 micrograms, instead of 10.

Steinhoff said lead exposure to 5 micrograms could be as easy as opening and shutting a window.

Families are urged to get their children tested as early as possible.

They can do so through their private health care provider or through the county health department.

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