Lead poisoning: What parents should know and do

You may have seen recent news reports regarding a company that supplied defective lead testing machines to tens of thousands of children between 2013 and 2017. Or pondered the presence of lead in tap water following the highly publicized concerns with lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan. These reports serve as a warning to parents that they must be aware of the dangers of lead and do everything possible to keep their children safe.

How is lead harmful to one’s health?

Even in trace doses, lead is toxic to the brain and neurological system. There is no such thing as a safe level of lead in the blood. We are especially concerned about youngsters under the age of six. Not only are their brains developing, but young children frequently touch and put their hands in their mouths. Lead poisoning can cause long-term learning, comprehension, and behavioral issues in children.

How do children come into contact with lead?

Lead was once significantly more common in the United States than it is now, particularly in paint and gas. However, children can be exposed to lead in a variety of ways.

Lead-based paint.

Lead paint can sometimes be detected under other paint in buildings built before 1978, and it is most typically seen on windowsills or around doorways. Children may consume peeling paint if it is there. Old paint dust can settle on the floor or other surfaces that youngsters touch with their hands (and subsequently put in their mouths). If lead paint was ever used on the outside of a house, it can occasionally be found in the earth around the house.

Gas with lead in it.

While leaded gasoline was banned in 1996, its use in aircraft, farm equipment, racing cars, and marine engines is still permitted.

Water flows through lead pipes.

Lead is found in the water of older homes with lead pipes.

Additional sources.

Some imported toys, candles, jewelry, and traditional medicines also contain lead. Some parents may be exposed at work or through hobbies and bring it home with them on their hands or clothing. Working in demolition of ancient houses, producing goods with lead solder, or being exposed to lead bullets at a firing range are all examples.

What can parents do to safeguard their children from lead poisoning?

First, be aware of potential risks.

If you own an older home, have it tested for lead if you haven’t already. (If you rent, landlords must disclose known lead-based paint concerns when you sign a lease.) Inspection is especially critical if you are planning renovations, which frequently produce dust and debris, increasing the danger of exposure. Your local health department can provide you with instructions on how to do this testing. If you have lead in your home, do not attempt to remove it yourself! To be safe, it must be done carefully and by a competent specialist.

Contact your local health agency to get the water in your home analyzed.

Even if your home is brand new, the water system may contain older pipes. Using a water filter and other measures can help to minimize or eliminate lead in tap water.

If you reside in an urban location and have an older home, there may be lead in the soil. You should consider having the soil around your property tested for lead. Allow your child to play in bare soil, and ensure that they remove their shoes before entering the house and wash their hands after being outside.

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