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11 Ways You Could Be Exposed to Lead in Your Everyday Life
One exposure one time isn’t going to cause a problem, of course, especially at very low levels. But repeated exposures over time from multiple sources could create a threat, especially to young children whose brains and organs are still developing and to pregnant and nursing women. Here are some of the most common—and least expected—ways we may be exposed to lead on a daily basis.
Lead used to be added to paint, both what we used to paint our homes inside and out and also the paint that was used in offices, schools and industrial buildings. The use of lead-based paints for homes, children’s toys and household furniture was banned in the U.S. in 1978. But lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork in many older homes and apartments, reports the Mayo Clinic. Most lead poisoning in kids results from them eating lead-based paint chips.
Homes that have lead-based paint on the walls, doors and window frames often have lead-contaminated dust. Kids wouldn’t eat dust en masse, but they’d pick it up on their hands when they crawl around on the floor. It can also get into their food and anyone can inhale fine lead-tainted dust particles.
Imported Canned Food and Imported Hard Candies
Though lead solder is banned from canned food produced in the U.S., it is still used when food cans are made in some other countries. Lead can also be found in wrappers used on imported candy.
Imported toys may contain high lead levels that are especially dangerous for the kids who play with them and might chew on them. Blocks, dolls and action figures may be painted with lead-based paint and little metal pieces may be held together with lead solder. Cheap toys sold in vending machines and large volume discount stores are often contaminated as well, reports the New York Department of Health.
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that comes out of the earth’s crust, so remedies made from some herbs could be contaminated. The Mayo Clinic warns against using azarcon or sea coral, which is a Hispanic remedy for upset stomach and other digestive ills; litargirio or litharge, a powder used as a deodorant in the Dominican Republic; ba-baw-san, a Chinese herbal remedy for babies suffering from colic; and daw tway, a digestive aid used in Thailand that contains high levels of lead and arsenic.
Lead paint and dust can settle into the soil surrounding a painted building, then get easily picked up when it’s walked on or when kids play in it. I was shocked to discover high lead levels in the yard where my kids played because the garage next door had been painted, sanded, repainted and sanded many times over. All that dust and flaking paint settled right in my garden and yard!
Pottery, Ceramics, China or Crystal
Glazed terra cotta pottery often contains lead. It’s beautiful, but shouldn’t be used for food. China and crystal may also be made with lead. If you make pottery or stained glass or refinish furniture, the products you use could also contain lead.
Eyeliner and Lipstick
Kohl is a traditional cosmetic used as a dark eyeliner. It also may contain very high levels of lead. Be wary if you use kohl that is imported from the Middle East or India. Studies have been finding lead in lipstick for years, reports Mother Jones. In 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found lead in 61 percent of products tested.
Venison and Other Wild Game
People can be exposed to lead by eating wild animals that were shot and killed with lead shot and lead bullets. “Recent research indicates that small lead fragments are often present in venison from deer harvested with lead bullets,” reports the New York Department of Health. “These particles of lead can get into your body when you breathe or swallow and lead dust can get on your food and other items that you eat, drink or put in your mouth.”
Vehicle Batteries and Other Industrial Uses
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration estimates that approximately 804,000 workers in general industry and an additional 838,000 workers in construction are potentially exposed to lead, primarily as a result of the production, use, maintenance, recycling and disposal of lead material and products. Exposure also occurs during renovation or demolition of structures painted with lead pigments.
What Can You Do to Protect Yourself?
The Centers for Disease Control offers these helpful suggestions to prevent kids from lead exposure.
If you suspect your home is painted with lead paint, do not try to remove it yourself. Use a trained lead contractor, whom you can find by going here.
Choose what you eat very carefully. Avoid imported canned food and candy and wild game unless you can somehow verify it is lead-free.
Choose cosmetics and personal care products produced in the U.S. or Europe, rather than in Asia, the Middle East or South America. You can also buy eye make-up and lipstick specifically formulated without lead.
Contact your local water utility to find out how and when they test for the presence of lead in the water. You can also get a Lead Check Test Kit to test yourself on solid surfaces.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.