How to prevent lead poisoning in kids
Although the U.S. banned lead-based paint in 1978 and began to phase out leaded gasoline around the same time, lead still poses a threat to children today.
Deteriorated lead paint still exists in older homes and gasoline residue can be found in the dirt around heavily traveled roads. Lead exposure can also come from jewelry, toys or contact with someone who works in a lead-related industry.
Jodi Perras, executive director of Improving Kids’ Environment in Indianapolis, says danger of lead poisoning is greatest for children under 6 years old. During these formative years, kids are crawling and liable to place things in their mouths, which increases the chances of ingesting lead.
“The idea that we look for lead hazards by testing kids is not ideal,” says Dr. John C. Ellis, MD. FAAP, medical director for Managed Health Services in Indianapolis. “When you find a kid with elevated levels, they already have the injury.”
The problems associated with late detection of lead poisoning makes prevention even more important. If your home was built before 1978, follow these tips to reduce the chance of your child being exposed:
Keep your home clean. The friction from windows and doors can create dust and, in older homes, this dust can contain lead. Use disposable wipes to keep the floors and windowsills clean.
Monitor play areas. If you live in an older neighborhood or near an older urban street, Perras advises to cover the soil around your child’s play areas with mulch or a tarp. Always wash their hands as soon as they come inside.
Pay attention to imported products. To reduce costs, overseas manufacturers often put lead in imported jewelry, cheap toys and drinking glasses. Stay up to date with product recalls and remove any recalled items from your children right away.
Make sure they have a mineral rich diet. A diet rich in protein, calcium and iron can help reduce the effects of lead. This can help prevent lead from mimicking the minerals your body needs.
“The body is looking for iron and sometimes it finds lead. It will put the lead where it would normally use iron,” Ellis says. "This doesn’t work, so various enzymes in your body won’t work. If this affects brain cells, they die. Those injuries are permanent.”
Test your home. If you are concerned that your home may contain lead, you can purchase a lead test kit from your local hardware store or hire a professional to do a more elaborate test. If lead is found, hire a lead removal professional. Also, when doing any home improvement projects only hire contractors who are certified in lead paint removal, as required by the EPA.
For more information and prevention tips, visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/tips.htm.