How do you prevent lead poisoning?
Beautiful historic homes and solidly built bungalows line Ohio streets throughout the state. Unfortunately, many of these homes may contain lead hazards.
About 3.7 million Ohio homes contain lead-based paint either inside or outside the home. If your child ingests trace amounts of lead, it can cause permanent developmental damage. There is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood.
How does lead-based paint get from the paint to your child? Opening and closing windows and doors creates dust (whether you can see it or not) that the child breathes in. Your child may also touch surfaces coated with lead-based paint and then put his or her hand in his or her mouth.
Although lead based paint is the most widespread and dangerous lead source, the following products also contain lead:
- Some toys
- Soil and water, usually contaminated by lead pipes, paint, or gasoline additives
- Glazes found on certain ceramics, porcelain, and china
- Some children’s jewelry
- Artificial turf
- Food, usually contaminated by lead-containing soil or lead soldered cans
Although anyone can be affected by lead exposure, children and pregnant women are most at risk.
How do I prevent lead poisoning?
Hand hygiene, a healthy diet, and certain housecleaning techniques will make a huge difference in keeping lead exposure at bay. Consider the following precautions to protect your family from lead.
1. Test your home for lead. If you live in a home built before 1978, have it inspected by a licensed professional. Before you buy a home, have it inspected for lead. Before you sign a lease, ask the landlord about lead.
If your home does contain lead-based paint, professional cleaning, paint-stabilization techniques, and repairs performed by a licensed professional can help reduce exposure.
2. Watch for peeling and chipping paint. If you repair problem areas, remember that sanding and scraping paint creates dangerous dust. If in doubt, hire a contractor trained in lead-safe work practices.
3. Keep children and pregnant women away from renovations in homes built before 1978. Spend time away from home during renovations.
4. Eat a diet rich in calcium, Vitamin C, and iron. A diet rich in these vitamins and minerals may help lower lead absorption.
5. Wash your child’s hands before eating, after outdoor play, and at bedtime. This helps reduce hand-to-mouth transfer of contaminated dust and soil.
6. Wash toys often. This also helps reduce transfer of lead from dust and lead-contaminated toys.
7. Use wet cleaning methods. Use a wet mop to clean floors. Use a wet cloth to clean windowsills, furniture, and other dusty surfaces.
8. Let water run for at least two minutes before drinking or cooking. This will help reduce lead exposure from lead pipes or fittings. Your local health department or water company may provide lead testing for your water at no or low cost. The Ohio Department of Health provides a list of state-accredited labs.
9. Take off your shoes before entering the house. Don’t bring lead-contaminated dirt into the house.
How do I know if my child was exposed to lead?
If you think your child may have been exposed, talk to your pediatrician about a blood test to check for lead.
If your children are on Medicaid, they must be tested for lead at 1 and 2 years of age. Also, if you live in a high risk zip code that has a lot of older homes, you must test your child for lead.
The Ohio Department of Health (ODH) works hard to combat potential lead poisoning throughout the state. With a few simple home and health practices, you can prevent the majority of lead exposure.
Contact ODH for more information about blood tests and how to best prevent lead poisoning in your home and community.