Protect Your Child from Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning has returned to the news after the discovery of lead in the Flint, Michigan, drinking water supply and numerous revelations about contaminated lead pipes in schools across the country. However, childhood lead poisoning never disappeared, especially in homes, schools, and childcare facilities constructed before 1978.
The primary risk of lead poisoning comes from deteriorated lead-based paint ingested via young children’s hand to mouth activity. Dust generated from frequent opening and closing of windows and doors demonstrates just how easily lead can enter the home environment. Other sources of lead exposure can be bare soil, drinking water, toys, jewelry, cosmetics, and some imported foods.
Who Is Most Vulnerable to Lead Poisoning?
Children under six years old and pregnant women are at the greatest risk to get lead poisoning. It is vital that children living in older homes and high-risk zip codes receive regular tests for lead poisoning. Ohio has over 400 high-risk zip codes, including more than 200 where more than 5 percent of children under the age of six are lead poisoned.
Furthermore, there is NO safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Early detection of trace amounts can be instrumental in preventing permanent brain damage.
All children and women planning to have children who live or work in at-risk areas should receive regular blood tests. The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) will increase blood testing for lead in the coming months. All children who receive Medicaid or live in a high risk zip code must receive blood tests at one and two years of age. Children must also be tested if any questions are answered “yes” on the Childhood Lead Risk Questionnaire from the ODH.
What Are the Symptoms of Lead Poisoning?
Symptoms of lead poisoning are settle and manifest themselves later in life as cognitive deficits and behavioral disorders. A blood test is the only known method to determine exposure to lead posisoning. The most visible problems affecting someone with lead poisoning include:
- Learning deficiencies
- Decreased attention span
- Slow physical growth
- Hearing loss
- Behavioral challenges
Stomachaches, persistent headaches, fatigue, and low iron (anemia) are often mistaken for other illnesses but can in fact be more immediate physical symptoms of lead poisoning.
Pregnant women with lead poisoning have a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth, and giving birth to an abnormally small fetus. Although blood testing is not recommended for all pregnant women, those with high risk of exposure including other children with lead poisoning, personal history of lead poisoning, are employed in an at risk industry, a recently remodeled home constructed prior to 1978, and significant time living outside the United States should be tested for lead in the blood.
It remains critical that doctors and health service professionals continue to test for lead poisoning. Women who may be exposed to lead poisoning should always ask their health-care professional about testing for lead poisoning.
How Can You Prevent Lead Contamination?
Prevention is the best practice to avoid lead poisoning. There are several recommendations for preventing the risk of lead poisoning. First, test your house for lead as soon as possible. Always test for lead before removing paint or remodeling. Avoid dry sanding and/or heating old lead paint in homes constructed prior to 1978. Always consult your local health department if you have any concerns.
Second, maintain a clean house by vacuuming slowly with a HEPA-certified vacuum cleaner, frequently washing floors and windowsills and dusting with a damp cloth.
Personal hygiene is also important in preventing lead contamination, especially for children. Wash hands frequently, leave shoes by the door, maintain regular doctor appointments and, should a parent work in a potentially lead-affected vocation such as construction, remodeling, and Fracking shower outside the home if possible.
What and how you eat also provides an important preventative measure against lead poisoning. All family members, especially children, should vigorously wash hands before meals at home and at school. Food should always be served in a clean place. Additionally, foods rich in calcium, vitamin C and iron prevent lead from entering our bones and bloodstream.
What If Lead Poisoning Is Found?
The Ohio Department of Health is determined to combat potential lead poisoning throughout the state. You can protect your family when you know what to look for and how to take preventative steps to avoid lead and lead-based products. Contact your medical home the ODH for more information about blood tests and for further details about how best to prevent lead poisoning in your home and community.