What Everyone Should Know About Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning, the number one environmental health threat to children under the age of 6,
is entirely avoidable. It is a disease caused by
swallowing or breathing lead. Even small amounts of chipped lead paint or lead dust can be dangerous to children. Children face great risks because their bodies absorb lead more easily than adult bodies do. Children put everything into their mouths and no matter how hard you try, it is impossible to keep and eye on a toddler every minute.
Millions of American children are affected by lead poisoning. Children who live in old, poorly maintained housing
or in housing undergoing renovation, face the greatest risk. Suburban and rural children face danger too, if they live in older homes with peeling or chipping paint or in houses being renovated.
Lead paint is the major source
of lead poisoning in the United States. Chipped or peeling lead paint poses the greatest risk. However, even intact lead paint can create fine lead dust which
may be difficult to see. Millions of homes have lead on windows and sills, doorframes, stairways, railings, banisters, woodwork, molding, porches, fences.
Peeling paint and dust caused by lead paint chips are either
inhaled by children or eaten by children. Children also suck on their hands or toys that have lead dust on them. Some toddlers even eat paint chips or chew on lead
painted windowsills and stair rails because the paint chips are sweet.
Since 1977, the law changed prohibiting or limiting the use of lead in
household paints. Therefore, family living in post 1978 housing are generally not at risk for lead poisoning.
What are the Signs of Lead Poisoning?
There are usually no signs of lead poisoning, or they may be
mistaken for symptoms of Flu or other illnesses. If there are signs, these symptoms may include, stomachache, cramps, irritability, fatigue, frequent vomiting, constipation, headache, sleep disorders, and poor appetite.
What are the Long Term Effects of Lead Poisoning?
shown that lower levels of lead may damage the nervous system including the brain, interfere with growth, harm hearing, lower IQ scores, make learning difficult. Low level lead poisoning may also cause behavioral problems. For example, a child with lead poisoning may be easily excited and unable to concentrate. At high levels, lead may cause coma, convulsion and death.
How Can I Prevent My Child From Getting Lead Poisoning?
Protect your child with regular screening. Screening and early
detection of lead poisoning will avoid damage from long term exposure. The lower the lead level, the easier the treatment. Screening locations may include health clinics, family physicians or pediatricians and the Public Health Department. Screening may also be available at WIC offices, Headstart Schools and child care centers. Screening is done by a blood test to find out if there is too much lead in your child's blood. Most children should be screened starting at 12 to 15 months of age and should have follow up screening as recommended by their health care practitioner.
High risk children who live or play in older housing, have brothers, sisters or playmates with high levels or whose homes are undergoing renovation should be screened starting at six months of age and
should have follow up screening as well.