Here’s how to protect your children from lead poisoning

It’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, so it’s a good time to learn about it and consider having your children tested for lead exposure, especially if you live in a home that was built before 1978. Although lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among children, there are still about half a million kids in the U.S. with elevated levels of lead in their blood.

How does lead get into your child’s body?

The most common way a child is exposed to lead is from dust from deteriorating lead-based paint in older homes and apartments. This is by far the most dangerous lead exposure for most children. Lead-based paint was used in more than 38 million homes until it was banned for residential use in 1978. More than half of the homes in Idaho were built before 1978 and could have lead-based paint in them. Lead also can be found in soil near mining or smelting sites, tap water in homes with older plumbing, car batteries, bullets, and even some folk medicines such as azarcon or greta. Grown-up hobbies that use lead such as reloading and making bullets, or making stained glass and pottery can also increase a child’s exposure to lead.

Why the focus on children? Isn’t lead poisoning dangerous for everyone?

Children’s growing bodies absorb much more lead than adults’ and their brains, bones, and nervous systems are more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead. Because children often put their hands, toys, and nearly everything else into their mouths, any lead in their homes or play areas may end up in their bodies.

What are some of the symptoms of lead poisoning?

Health effects in children can include hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, learning disabilities, speech delays, and hearing impairment. Even low levels of lead in children’s bodies can result in lowered IQ. The good news is that it’s very preventable. Identifying and controlling or eliminating lead in your child’s environment is important.

How do you know if you should have your children tested?

If you live in an older home with peeling paint or you’ve recently remodeled an older home, are exposed to lead at work, live near or recreate near a lead smelter or mine site, or suspect exposure to other sources of lead (toys, pottery, lead sinkers), talk to your doctor about having your child tested. If you don’t know if there is lead-based paint in your house, you can have a lead inspection and a risk assessment done by an EPA-certified firm.

What can you do to protect your child?

  • Make sure your child gets lots of iron and calcium in their diet. This will reduce the amount of lead that their bodies absorb.
  • If you’re going to remodel an older home, hire EPA-certified companies so lead paint removal is handled in a safe way.
  • Regularly damp-wipe floors, toys, and any surfaces that your child often uses.
  • Wash your child’s hands regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing on window sills or other painted surfaces.
  • Clean up paint chips inside and outside the house.

(Note: A Closer Look At Your Health airs at 6:50 a.m. most Tuesdays on KBOI News Radio 670. This is an edited segment from the Oct. 25 segement. Listen in on Nov. 1, when we will be discussing lung cancer awareness.)


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