Lead poisoning occurs when a person swallows or inhales lead. Children – particularly young children who put objects into their mouths – often contract the illness from swallowing lead-based paint or inhaling lead-contaminated dust in or around deteriorating buildings.
Lead poisoning causes damage even at low levels, and can affect red blood cell production, hearing, development, learning and behavior. High levels can damage the nervous system, kidneys, the reproductive system and mental health.
The CDC defines childhood lead poisoning as 10 ug/dl (micrograms per deciliter) or more of lead in the body at the time of a screening. About half a million
With Oct. 23-29 designated as Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, federal health officials hope to raise awareness about the issue, emphasize the importance of screening high-risk children under age 6 and highlight prevention partnerships nationwide. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has set a national goal of eliminating childhood lead poisoning in the
“Lead poisoning is the number one environmental health hazard for younger children, and occurs in minority and poor children in disproportionate numbers, says Stic Harris, senior epidemiologist at the Georgia Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. “It is an entirely preventable condition. Many parents and providers don’t see lead as an issue now. Unfortunately, lower levels (of lead in the body), despite having few or no symptoms, can be extremely harmful over time.”
The only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning is to have his/her blood tested.
Currently, children receiving Medicaid insurance must be screened for blood lead levels at 12 months and 24 months of age.
Where is Lead Found?
The most common source of lead is lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust or soil found in or around housing constructed before 1978. However, lead may also be found in some:
• Drinking water
• Jobs and hobbies that use lead
• Lead-glazed ceramic ware, pottery, and leaded crystal
• Folk medicines and cosmetics (i.e. Greta, azarcon, paylooah, surma and kohl)
• Mini or Venetian blinds
Keeping Kids Lead-Free
Health officials recommend the following strategies to keep your home and your loved ones lead-free:
• Regularly clean floors and windowsills with warm soapy water.
• Regularly clean carpeted surfaces.
• If paint is peeling, clean it up right away, cover it up, or block your child’s access to the hazard.
• Make sure your child plays in grassy areas or a sandbox, not in bare soil.
• Make sure your child eats healthy meals and snacks that include foods with iron, calcium, and Vitamin C.
• Teach your child good hygiene, including washing hands before meals and after playing outside.
• Don’t let your child eat or chew on non-food items.
• Don’t store food in old or imported pottery or glassware.
• Run water from the tap for 1-2 minutes before drinking or cooking with it. Use only cold water for cooking, drinking, or making baby formula.
• If lead is used where you work, change your clothes and shoes before coming in the house. Wash your hands, too.
Finally, if you have determined there is lead paint in your home, don’t remove it yourself. Hire a certified contractor for this task. If you live in a rental property, federal law requires that landlords who know that there is lead on the property disclose that information to their tenants.
Centers for Disease Control Lead Poisoning Prevention Program – www.cdc.gov/nech/lead/lead.htm.