Lead Poisoning and Prevention and Child Safety

There is absolutely no good reason for lead poisoning to occur in the 21st Century. This is something that is 100% preventable. There are two keys needed for prevention:
  1. Creating an environment where children do not come into contact with lead.
  2. Identifying and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.
Pretty simple stuff, or am I missing something. Parents, your first goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. You start by identifying lead hazards in a child’s environment then controlling or completely removing those hazards.
How are children exposed to lead?
According to the CDC: “Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem. Approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.”
Who is at risk?
Children under the age of 6 years old are at risk. They grow really fast, are highly mobile and constantly exploring. They are very tactile and will pick up objects of all types. In many cases they will put their hands or other objects in their mouths. Those happy little hands may be contaminated with lead dust.
The children at the greatest risk are those living at or below the poverty line and are living in older housing. Additionally, children of some racial and ethnic groups living in older housing are disproportionately affected by lead.
Why is lead bad for children?
Lead will replace healthy minerals in the bloodstream impeding a child’s red blood cells ability to carry oxygen through the body. The chance for damage to the nervous system and organs increases a lot. Possible complications include:
  • Behavior or attention problems
  • Failure at school
  • Hearing problems
  • Kidney damage
  • Reduced IQ
  • Slowed body growth
If you suspect you may have lead paint in your house, get advice on safe removal from the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) at 800-RID-LEAD or the National Information Center at 800-LEAD-FYI. Another excellent source of information is the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-5323.
What else can be done to prevent exposure to lead?
  1. Determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time. That could be your house, daycare or a house where relatives live. In housing built before 1978, assume the paint has lead unless or until testing indicates that it doesn’t.
  2. Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint and dust from your home for lead.
  3. The stock answer here is to make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint. That is an unacceptable risk . Either hire a contractor who is lead paint certified to remove the paint or get a painting respirator and do it yourself. You can play let’s pretend but leaving that paint on your wall is a ticket on the trouble train.
If housing built before 1978 is undergoing renovation, especially renovation removing lead paint and dust, children and pregnant women should not be present in that building, no exceptions. They absolutely should not participate in activities that disturb old paint (.e.g. scraping or burning the paint off the walls) or in cleaning up paint debris after the work has been completed.
The CDC recommends that you create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. They further recommend that until environmental clean-up is completed, you should clean and isolate all sources of lead. The CDC also want you to close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. We strongly suggest you temporarily leave the child with relatives or friends. I understand that it may not be practical and an imposition but guess what…this is a lot safer than possibly exposing children to the toxic effects of lead and lead dust. You can’t play with this, you really need to keep them out of that type of environment.
How do you manage lead until it can be removed?
  1. Keep your home as dust-free as possible.
  2. Have everyone wash their hands before eating.
  3. Wash your children’s toys frequently to remove lead dust.
  4. Throw out old painted toys if you do not know whether the paint contains lead.
  5. Let tap water run for a minute before drinking or cooking with it.
  6. If your water has tested high in lead, consider installing an effective filtering device or switch to bottled water for drinking and cooking.
  7. Avoid canned goods from foreign countries until the ban on lead soldered cans goes into effect.
  8. If imported wine containers have a lead foil wrapper, wipe the rim and neck of the bottle with a towel moistened with lemon juice, vinegar, or wine before using.
  9. Don’t store wine, spirits, or vinegar-based salad dressings in lead crystal decanters for long periods of time, because lead can get into the liquid.
If someone has severe symptoms from possible lead exposure (such as vomiting or seizures) call 911 immediately. Other symptoms include: irritability or behavioral problems, difficulty concentrating, headaches, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness or fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting or nausea, constipation, pallor (pale skin) from anemia, metallic taste in mouth, muscle and joint weakness or pain, or seizures.
For other symptoms that you think may be caused by lead poisoning, call your local poison control center. In the United States, call 1-800-222-1222 to speak with a local poison control center. This hotline number will let you talk to experts in poisoning. They will give you further instructions.
To further reduce a child’s exposure from non-residential paint sources:
The CDC has created an outstanding infographic for the signs and prevention of lead paint poisoning. Please click the “Infographic” tab at the top of the page. After you look at the infographic please return to the top of the page and click the “Parents Magazine Lead Paint Poisoning Video” tab to watch their outstanding video on preventing lead paint poisoning.
The following Infographic was created by the CDC. Click to get this infographic from the CDC website.
Click to get this infographic from the CDC website. Please return to the top of the page and click the “Video” tab to watch Parents Magazine outstanding video on Lead Poisoning Prevention.
Watch this excellent video from Parents Magazine – Baby Care Basics: What is Lead Poisoning?