The idea is to get the dust out of the air

'I see kids every day who have lead poisoning from breathing lead paint dust. Some of them are on Ritalin, when the real solution would be to treat the lead problem'. So we were told by a gentleman in St. Louis, MO who is quite familiar with lead paint problems in older homes.

Lead paint can be a real danger to both children and adults living in houses built before 1978. Contrary to what most people think, a toddler doesn't have to eat paint chips to get lead poisoning. Microscopic dust can be created by merely raising and lowering a window painted with lead paint. The friction between the painted window sash (the part that goes up and down) and the painted window frame grinds the paint and generates toxic lead-containing dust.

Buy or sell a house, and you'll see that lead is a big problem. The multiple lead disclosure statements and forms for both buyer and seller are not just a lot of government 'bureaucratic red tape', but were created to address a real problem.

In adults, who are no longer growing, the lead eventually is removed by the body. But in children, their growing bodies grab onto any lead they ingest, and it builds up. Adults will absorb 10 percent of the lead they eat; children absorb up to 50 percent. Children also more readily absorb what they breathe. Their developing nervous system is especially vulnerable. Though the symptoms of low-level lead poisoning in children include clumsiness, stomach aches, refusal to play, irritability, fatigue and loss of appetite, these are often ignored by parents and the condition can worsen.

Dr. Herbert Needleman performed an analysis of lead levels of baby teeth of 2,146 normal schoolchildren aged 5 to 6. He then had each child?s behavior rated by the teacher. The results: more lead related to worse behavior! Similar findings were made in several other countries.

Lead poisoning can be treated with chelation. But it is somewhat painful, and it takes other, beneficial heavy minerals out of the body along with the harmful lead.

What can be done about it
The lead paint dust in older houses is not pure metallic lead, but contains a lighter weight lead compound commonly know as "white lead" (which is probably heavier than other house dust). But it's still poisonous to breathe or otherwise ingest. Natural indoor air currents keep microscopic dust particles (and pollen, pet dander, mold spores, other house dust, etc.) in the air. How can the dust be kept out of the air? With an ionizer, or negative ion generator, in the room.
When an ionizer is running, any light from the sun (the "sunbeam" in the air shining in through the window, normally seen without the ionizer running), is invisible. No "sunbeam", because the dust floating in the air (which is what the so-called sunbeam really is), is gone. Only the spot of sunlight on the floor is visible, unless any dust that is present on the floor has been stirred up.
Why? Because the the negative ions cause the dust particles floating in the air to be attracted to one another and stick together. When enough of them stick together and form a bigger clump of dust particles, then they become heavy enough to sink down to the floor (or other surfaces), where they can be vacuumed up.

The idea is to get the dust out of the air so that it cannot be breathed in. But just vacuuming the floor will not remove dust from the air; that's the reason for the ionizer. (And placing ionizers in the house does not eliminate need to vacuum.)

Paint checking (that looks like alligator hide) might indicate lead paint. "But don?t panic," writes the magazine In Health. "Intact paint isn?t a danger, though peeling paint and paint dust are. . . . Check your home inside and out for peeling, looking especially around wooden door and window frames, where weather and friction tend to grind and chip painted surfaces." A word of caution: Do not attempt paint removal yourself. Children may be lead poisoned when their parents scrape and sand old paint from walls and trim, filling the air with lead-laden dust. Your local or state health department may be able to assist you in determining if your home is at risk, perhaps directing you to laboratories trained in lead inspection and removal.

In the meantime, suitable room ionizers, good housekeeping practices, and common sense can help reduce the risk of lead dust poisoning in your home.