In our last newsletter, we highlighted the problem of household exposure to asbestos. More recently, in early October, some of you may have read an excellent series of articles appearing in USA Today which detailed the problems of family members exposed to a variety of toxic substances, including mercury, radioactive material, beryllium, lead, asbestos, PCBs, pesticides and arsenic. The USA Today article stressed that these contaminates can be brought into the home on a workers’ clothing, hair, tools, papers, and briefcases. The article points out that lead dust is a particular hazard to small children who may be contaminated by parents working in facilities which repair and rebuild batteries, as well as in the ceramics industry and in lead smelting. 

Family and friends may be exposed to invisible or minute quantities of contaminates brought home on a worker’s clothes, and USA Today reports that exposure can result from casual handling of clothing or even from cleaning a house containing a hazardous substance tracked in from the job on a worker’s shoes.

It is important to keep in mind that your children or grandchildren may be exposed to a lead hazard, even if your home is free of chipping or deteriorating lead based paint. According to the USA Today article, tens of thousands of families with children under six are living with household members occupationally exposed to lead, as a result of such activities as sanding old finishes, fixing batteries, repairing radiators or splicing cables containing lead dust.

If you have any questions or concerns about toxic substances brought home on your clothing, we would be happy to speak with you or direct you to an appropriate agency for more information. If you suspect a continuing contamination hazard, we advise you to investigate immediately and take appropriate steps to decontaminate laundry rooms where contaminated clothes are washed and to take precautions with regard to car seats, rugs, furniture, and other surfaces. It is important, also, to take the appropriate precautions since, for example, vacuuming up a substance such as mercury can disperse the substance in the air and cause an even greater hazard.

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