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Get the Lead Out!

by Lori Sciame | February 14th, 2011 | Infants/Toddlers

Are you the parent of a toddler, and do you live in a home built before 1979? If yes, then you should be aware of a potential poisoning hazard that could be lurking in your house – lead.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) states that, “Approximately 250,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which… health actions should be initiated.” As you can see, the threat to children from lead is real.

And it is even more dangerous to toddlers under the age of two who live in homes with lead-based paint. Why? Because toddlers like to put their hands, as well as objects, to their mouths while they are busy exploring their environment.

Listed below are the most common ways lead enters a toddler’s body:

– Chipping or deteriorating lead paint (manufactured before 1979) creates dust and debris that children can ingest or inhale.
– Children may also chew on lead painted surfaces.

In addition, children may be exposed to lead in the following ways:

– Lead can also be found in certain types of pottery, colored newsprint and comics, toys (including some crayons), furniture painted with lead-based paint, imported jewelry, certain candies from Mexico, old pipes, and in dirt which has been exposed to leaded gasoline.

The scary thing is that it only takes a tiny amount of lead to hurt a toddler. And the results can be devastating. Consider this – children with high lead levels may have learning disabilities, decreased IQ, hearing problems, behavior problems, kidney damage, speech and language delays, and even seizures.

Also disturbing is that the symptoms of lead poisoning are not obvious, and may mimic other illnesses. One child may act like he or she has the flu, while other children may experience stomachaches, fatigue, irritability, constipation, headaches, or poor appetites.

So how does a parent know if his or her child has lead poisoning? Currently, only a blood test can tell you if your child has been exposed to lead. The good news, however, is that you can protect your child from lead poisoning; it is 100% preventable.

Ways to keep your child safe:

– If you live in a home built before 1979, clean frequently to keep dust levels low. Also, pay special attention to high-risk areas, such as windows and floors.
– Repair and/or maintain old painted surfaces using approved lead safe methods, because the improper removal of lead paint can actually create a greater hazard. (Check online or with your local health department for guidelines).
– Wash your child’s hands frequently, especially before eating and at bedtime.
– Provide foods high in calcium and iron for your child, and avoid fatty foods.
– Never let your child play near or touch chipping paint. Do not let them play in bare soil, especially near old buildings or busy roads.
– Avoid letting your child eat candies (that contain lead) from Mexico.
– Avoid using containers, cookware, or tableware that contain lead.
– Check lead recall lists. Many times children’s jewelry has been recalled due to high lead contents.
– Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula (Hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead. Most of the lead in household water usually comes from the plumbing in your house, not from the local water supply).
(Adapted from CDC guidelines)

Childhood lead poisoning is serious. It only takes a tiny amount of lead to harm a child’s growth and intellectual development. Health departments across the nation provide great resources concerning lead poisoning in children. Your child’s physician can also discuss risk factors and testing with you. Take advantage of the experts, work to “get the lead out,” because lead truly does hurt kids.

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