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PERSONAL HEALTH : Who to Call About Getting Lead Out

February 27, 1992|PAMELA WARRICK

It lingers on the lip of wine bottles, lurks in the sheen of expensive crystal and hides in the walls of elegant old homes. It is lead--one of the most persistent environmental poisons.

During the last decade, as researchers have identified more sources of lead contamination, governments have acted to protect--or at least alert--citizens. California, for example, now posts warning signs wherever leaded products are sold--from gas stations to fancy crystal showrooms.

But health departments are not always equipped to help with individual lead questions. And that's where Stephen O'Neal comes in.

A former painting contractor who watched employees suffer the toxic effects of inhaling lead dust, O'Neal has founded the nation's first clearinghouse for lead hazard information.

The San Francisco-based Lead Institute offers free telephone consultations and maintains a national database of lead-testing laboratories, inspection firms, "de-leading" contractors and lead-savvy public agencies. It also sells, at a modest markup, the only two home lead test kits sanctioned by Consumers Union.

O'Neal, 28, says he teamed with partner Henry Mazaleski, 34, who holds a master's degree in public health, because "lead is everywhere and everybody should know how to avoid it."

The Lead Institute's toll-free number is (800) 532-3837.

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