Young children are at highest risk for health problems if they are exposed to lead. According to the CDC, lead exposure can seriously harm a child’s health, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. There is no identified safe blood lead level in children, but approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 have blood lead levels that are concerning to public health.
There are many ways parents can reduce children’s exposure to lead before they are harmed.
For instance, young children often put toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouths as part of their normal development. This may put them in contact with lead paint or dust that can be common in the environment.
Since 1978 in the United States, the use of lead-based paints for houses, children's toys and household furniture has been prohibited. In many older homes and apartments, though, lead-based paint is still on walls and woodwork, which can result in youngsters eating lead-based paint chips.
Children can also come into contact to lead through:
- Traditional home health remedies such as azarcon and greta, which are sometimes used for an upset stomach or indigestion
- Imported candy and candy wrappers
- Imported toys and toy jewelry
- Imported cosmetics
- Pottery and ceramics
- Drinking water contaminated by lead leaching from lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, or valves
- Consumer products, including tea kettles, vinyl miniblinds and metal keys
Certain food containers that have lead and cookware such as lead glazed pottery, ceramics, china, and porcelain as well as lead crystal glassware, can leach lead into food or drinks.
Reduce a child's risk for lead exposure by taking proactive measures.
Have lead testing done before purchasing a home.
Always make sure children are away from areas that could have high levels of lead such as near old windows or on old porches, the yard next to an old home, or areas that have chipping or peeling paint or old window putty.
Cover the ground next to an older home with mulch or wood chips, and if paint chips or peeling paint is inside the house, dispose of the chips and cover the peeled patches until the paint can be removed.
Because water can contain lead, especially in older homes, use an ion exchange filter, reverse osmosis filter or distillation. If a filter is not available, run cold tap water for 15 to 30 seconds before usage.
If there is any uncertainty as to whether a piece of pottery has a lead glaze, use it for decoration only.
Keep a tidy house. Mop floors and sponge other surfaces on a regular basis.
Promote good hygiene. After playing outdoors or with pets and before eating and sleeping, ensure that children wash their hands and faces. Also, periodically wash children's toys periodically, which may become exposed to lead from dirt or household dust.
If using traditional remedies and foreign-made cosmetics that could contain lead, stop. If unsure whether a product contains lead, do not use it or allow children to use it.
Encourage a healthy diet. Eating a diet high in iron and calcium can lower the absorption of lead by a child.
Nonbrand toys, old toys and toys from discount stores or private sellers should be avoided and costume jewelry should never be given to young children because these items can also contain lead.
For adults who work with or handle items containing lead, remove clothing immediately when arriving home, and then take a shower and wash clothing, including contaminated shoes.
If a child has possibly been exposed to lead, ask the child’s doctor to do a blood test to check for lead.
For more information about the hazards of lead exposure to children, log onto the CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/features/leadpoisoning.