Beware of Lead Dangers at Home
by M.C. Millman
Lead, a naturally occurring element hidden in many products in our environment, is highly toxic to the human body, especially young children.
While people of all ages can get lead poisoning, children between the ages of six months and six years are at the highest risk because they often put their hands and toys in their mouths.
The most common source of lead exposure is lead-based paint and dust particles in houses built before 1978. Cracking, chipping, or peeling paint is harmful, as well as the dust produced from deteriorating lead paint.
Another common source of lead poising is lead particles in the air we breathe.
Other possible sources include water, soil, imported foods -specifically ethnic herbs and spices, and imported children's furniture, toys, and jewelry.
Lead poisoning interferes with brain development and function. It can also cause damage to the kidneys, liver, and red blood cells. As a result, lead poisoning often causes slowed growth, learning or behavior problems, lower IQ, hearing loss, and restlessness. Lead poisoning is also a concern for adults, particularly pregnant women and their unborn babies.
New York State Public Health Law and Regulations require healthcare providers to test children for lead poisoning at 12 months and again at 24 months. A blood test is the only way to confirm lead poisoning because children may not look or feel sick when they have lower levels of lead in their blood. Common symptoms of lead poisoning include headaches, stomach aches, nausea, tiredness, and irritability.
The number one way to prevent lead poisoning is frequent hand washing to prevent children from swallowing chipped lead paint or lead dust. Wash your child's hands and face after play, meals, and bed. Also, wash children's toys, stuffed animals, and other frequently touched items, and clean floors and window sills often.
If you plan on repairing a home built before 1978, it is essential to do so safely and keep dust levels to a minimum. If you are hiring a contractor, choose one certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove lead-based paint safely. If you are doing your own repairs, check out the EPA brochure for guidelines HERE to become familiar with the necessary measures to complete renovations and repairs safely.
A healthy diet can protect children from lead poisoning. Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead, so it is recommended to give children 4-6 small meals during the day.
Critical nutrients for protection against lead poisoning are iron, vitamin C, and calcium. Iron deficiency causes the body to absorb more lead to compensate for the lack of iron. Vitamin C assists in the absorption of more iron which helps prevent iron deficiency. Calcium deficiency has also been shown to increase lead absorption and lead retention. Low calcium levels may also cause lead to build up in the bones.
Check out the helpful and more detailed guide by the EPA on fighting lead poisoning with a healthy diet HERE.
Awareness of the dangers of lead poisoning is critical for New Yorkers, especially New York parents. Being on top of things today will preserve a better future for tomorrow.