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National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week - Lead in Children

What is Lead?

Lead is a soft malleable metal.

What are the Sources of Lead?

Lead can be found in our environment including in the soil, in our water, and in the air. It has also been found in homes. Lead can be found in many household objects and products we use such as paint, gasoline, batteries, ammunition, ceramics, pipes and plumbing materials, batteries, certain types of pewter, and cosmetics.

How are Children Exposed to Lead?

Children under age 6 are at the highest risk for lead poisoning. The most common cause of lead poisoning in children is from lead paint. Lead paint was used in homes built prior to 1978. Younger children are at higher risk because they are often putting their hands and objects into their mouths. Children can also be exposed to lead in food and drinking water. Lead may also be in the local soil and they can be exposed by playing outside. Recently, certain imported toys, mainly from China, had been found to contain lead and lead paint. Parents should take extra precautions when purchasing toys for their children and inspect any toys their children receive as gifts. Check the CSPC website for any recalls.

What are Acceptable Lead Levels in Children?

Lead poisoning is preventable but everyone is exposed to lead at some point in their life from the environment. The EPA and CDC have therefore concluded that a child with a blood lead level of 5 micrograms per deciliter has had a concerning exposure to lead and steps must be taken as soon as possible to mitigate any further exposure.

What are the Effects of Lead on Children?

Lead poisoning causes permanent damage to the brain and nervous system creating behavioral and learning problems for the child, lower IQ and hearing problems. Children may also experience slowed growth and anemia.

Is Your Child Safe From Lead Poisoning?

The CDC has published a POD cast about this topic. It can be downloaded and listened to here.

What Steps can you Take to Protect Your Child?

Removing Lead Dust: If you live in a house built prior to 1978, keeping your home clean and well maintained will go a long way to preventing lead exposure. It is important to keep an eye out for any paint deterioration such as peeling, chips, etc. Cleaning around painted areas where dust is most likely to occur such as with windows, drawers, doors, etc. can significantly reduce any lead dust. Wipe the area with a wet sponge or rag.

Reducing Risk of Lead in your Water Supply The government has regulated the acceptable lead level in drinking water, which is currently 15 pbb. However, not everyone is on town or city water. If you have a private well, it is strongly recommended that you get your water tested. However, even if the water to your house is mostly lead-free, lead can be accumulated in your water supply from the pipes and plumbing in your house. Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes. However, new homes still pose a risk. Even though the newer homes utilized “lead-free” plumbing fixtures, those “lead-free” fixtures can still contain up to 8% lead.

Use only cold water for cooking and drinking. Hot water makes it easier for lead to dissolve and leach into the water supply especially with brass or chrome-plated brass faucets and fixtures. Be sure to flush out your water system, especially if it has been sitting unused for a period time, before resuming using the water for drinking.

Healthy Diets:According to the EPA, children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with full stomachs. By feeding your children foods that are high in iron, calcium and vitamin C, you can reduce your child’s risk of lead absorption. Iron naturally helps to protect the body from the effects of lead. Calcium reduces the absorption of lead into the body and vitamin C works with iron rich foods to reduce lead absorption. The EPA has created a booklet with healthy food suggestions that reduce the risk of lead absorption. Their booklet can be found and downloaded here

Renovations and Repairs: Be sure that any contractors you use are Lead-Safe Certified and that they follow lead safe work practices. More information on this can be found at the EPA here

Resources to Teach Your Children About Lead

In 2009, the CDC had a lead poisoning awareness video contest. Here is the second place winner.

Henry and Fred Learn about Lead

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