Lead Paint

No one talks about
The Door Mat Study

The solutions are simple.
      It’s very simple. It’s very cheap. Just use door mats. Just take your shoes off at the door. Those two actions alone are known to cut household dust — and any poisoning lead in it — very effectively. That’s what the Door Mat Study found.
      But no one talks about the Door Mat Study. It did not make the evening national news. It made no waves in the lead paint establishment. This 1991 study lies buried at the bottom of a pile of papers in some academic archive.
      Experts and officials know what to do to control children’s exposure to lead. They know it can be done cheaply and simply. They just don’t want to do it.
      Consider these findings from the Door Mat Study:

  • Using door mats cut toxic lead dust inside the home almost in half.
  • Taking shoes off at the door cut the lead dust by 60%, better than door mats.
  • Doing both actions — door mats and shoes off — over a five month period wiped away a stunning 98.5% of the toxic dust. Virtually eliminated all of it.

Gems of information
      This one little study is packed with gems of information about how lead gets into homes and can be stopped easily, but no one wants to read it.

  • A study in England found that lead dust in door mats was twice the amount found on the floors inside. If that doesn’t tell you where the lead dust is coming from, try this:
  • Another study found that 2% of the dust in homes came from inside sources and 98% came from out of doors.
  • The dust in rugs can be 100 times greater than the dust on bare floors in the same homes. Rugs, like door mats, are dust-catchers. Maybe don’t use rugs when kids are little?
  • A 1983 study “established that good personal hygiene and housekeeping can significantly reduce lead dust on surfaces in homes and lead blood in children.” Here’s another study, 14 years old, that no one talks about.

Putting things together
      Here’s the scientific picture. Lead-contaminated soil from outside causes almost all the lead dust inside homes. And when the inside lead dust goes up, the lead goes up in children’s blood.
     v Given that removing shoes and using a door mat reduces household lead dust by 98.5%, why abate? Simple hand-, floor- and window-well-washing should get the remaining 1.5%.
      The Door Mat Study agrees: “The combination of controlling track-in and improved cleaning methods may produce a 100-fold reduction [99% reduction] in rug lead exposure over a period of time.”
      Using these combined methods is simple and cheap. “This may be one source of exposure that most families can afford to control,” says the Door Mat Study. “The main requirements are knowledge and commitment.”

A family’s best buy
      Finally, the Door Mat Study sees another great advantage. “Control of dust and track-in may also help to reduce exposure to pesticides used in the lawn and garden, toxics coming from wood smoke and industry, termiticides injected near the foundation, toxics tracked home from the job, mutagens, dust mites, allergens, and sick building symptoms that are associated with dust. Control of dust may be an environmental best buy for families who live in older homes.”
      But no one talks about the eight-year-old Door Mat Study.

Study reference:“Reducing Lead Exposure from Remodeling and Soil Track-In in Older Homes,” by J.W. Roberts, D.E. Camann and T.M. Spittler, presented at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Air and Waste Management Association, June 1991.


Turning lead into gold
      Why is lead paint abatement a sacred cow? Why are they still talking, still “searching” for alternatives? Why didn’t they long ago tell parents and owners the simple things to do?
      Because lead paint abatement employs a multi-million-dollar workforce of professionals, regulators, deleaders and lawyers. And these people are defending their jobs.
      You can’t blame them. They’ve learned how to turn lead into gold. It’s just that their vested interest in this case is not serving the public interest.
      Take, for example, a simple “dust wipe test,” which is used after hazardous abatement is completed. It can also be used to tell a homeowner or parent where any hazardous lead dust may be, so it can be cleaned up — instead of abatement.
      A dust wipe test is really simple. You open a sealed pouch, remove the gauze pad, wipe it once or twice in each direction over a six-inch-square area, put it back in the pouch, label it and mail it to a laboratory with a $6 fee. Multiple wipe tests cost about $10 total. It’s a very cheap way to evaluate the most important remaining route of low-level poisoning in the home.
      Dust wipe tests, however, cost $75 to $150 each, because only persons who have taken a five-day course are certified to do them. And of course, once certified, these people want to make a living and protect their turf.
      Heidi Most of the National Center for Lead-Safe Housing thinks this situation is ridiculous and would like to see a lot more people doing wipe tests. “The more, the better,” she says. But it would put inspectors out of work. She also wants short, free, practical training courses for owners to learn the simple lead hazard control methods. But that would put deleading contractors out of work.
      And she wants Home Depot to tell do-it-yourselfers how equipment like belt sanders can poison their children. Printing warning labels is cheap. But it would put out of work all the medical, inspectional, regulatory and deleading personnel who get activated when the do-it-yourselfer’s kid gets “poisoned.”
      You see, there is no lead problem. The solutions are known. There is a vested-interest problem.