Lead inspectors' lines buzz with phone calls

Homeowners are concerned about lead poisoning prevention.

By LEONORA LaPETER ANTON, Times Staff Writer
Published January 15, 2008

Pinellas County's lead inspector received more than 20 calls Monday asking him to inspect homes for lead.

Joe Zwissler, an environmental specialist with the Pinellas County Health Department, uses an X-ray fluorescence analyzer to detect high levels of lead in older homes or in household items. He has scheduled five lead assessments for this week, he said.

A St. Petersburg Times story on Sunday detailed concerns over low-level lead exposure, sparked by several recent toy recalls.

Calls to Zwissler have come from all over the county: Treasure Island, Palm Harbor, St. Petersburg, Seminole.

In one case, a child had tested positive for lead, and the mother didn't know she could get her home tested. In another case, a family with an autistic child wanted its home tested.

Zwissler said homes built after 1978 are unlikely to have lead so it doesn't make sense to test them, but he can still test household items.

To schedule an assessment in Pinellas County, call (727) 507-4336, ext. 1368. It costs $75 to $125, depending on the size of the house. It's free to a household in which someone has been diagnosed with lead poisoning.

Hillsborough County's childhood lead poisoning prevention coordinator, Cynthia O. Keeton, got a half-dozen calls from people wanting their homes checked.

Hillsborough will investigate with the X-ray fluorescence analyzer only if a child in the home has tested positive for lead. Keeton will do a walk-through inspection without the analyzer free of charge. For more information in Hillsborough County, call (813) 307-8015, ext. 7108.