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  QUESTION: Does rising damp increase risk of lead poisoning of a 1 yr old if the paint is leaded? 13 Jun 2006, New South Wales Australia

Could you please let me know if rising damp which has turned the paint flaky and bubbly is a serious health risk if old layers of the paint contain lead. There is a one year old baby in the house, and even though she isn't exposed to the flaky paint, I am concerned as mould alone causes respiratory problems. I am not sure if the paint is lead, but some of the area has eroded back to the plaster, so if it is there, it is exposed.
Thank you
ANSWER: 29 Jun 2006

Dear Carmen,
Flaky paint increases the chance of both inhalation (if the flakes fall down and get crushed under foot) and ingestion of paint. If the paint contains lead, this may lead to chronic lead poisoning. Toddlers like to touch the wall when they start to walk but also they like to put their hands in their mouth. Therefore, it is more dangerous to have a flaky paint (the paint may also be chalky). Children are more susceptible to lead than adults (danger of neurotoxicity) so since you have a young daughter, it is advisable to remove the paint and repaint the walls using lead-free paint. See
The Six Step Guide To Painting Your Home; for a booklet on how to do this. It is vital however to fix the rising damp problem before you go to the extent of fixing the flaky paint problem as the flaking will only recur if the damp remains.
Regarding the mould problem, it was found that if the paint contains arsenic, the mould action may liberate a volatile arsenic compound. Accumulation of the compound can result in arsenic poisoning. In fact, mould is capable of producing many volatile organic compounds.
I hope I gave you a satisfactory answer. If you have any more questions, feel free to contact us.
Erik Wibowo
Volunteer Researcher

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