Lead poisoning is one of the most common and preventable pediatric health problems in the United States today. No level of lead in the blood has been shown to be safe Studies have shown an association between blood lead poisoning and diminished intelligence, delayed or impaired neurobehavioral development, lower IQ, decreased hearing acuity, speech and language handicaps, growth inhibition, poor attention span, and antisocial and delinquent behaviors. At very low levels, the effects may occur without overt clinical symptoms. The effects of low-level lead poisoning in childhood may be irreversible. Children who are under the age of six are the most susceptible.
Estimates from the 1991-1994 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), conducted by CDC, suggest that in the United States, as many as one million children under the age of six years of age, have blood levels over 10 µg/dL. Lead poisoning in children is found in all socioeconomic boundaries.
Because children can be exposed to lead from many sources, and because there may be no safe threshold for lead poisoning, CDC is recommending that:
Where Lead is Found
*In general, the older your home, the more
likely it has lead-based paint.*
Drinking water: Your home might have plumbing with lead or lead solder. Call your local health department or water supplier to find out about testing your water. You cannot see, smell, or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of lead. If you think your plumbing might have lead in it:
The job: If you work with lead, you could bring it home on your hands or clothes. Shower and change clothes before coming home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of your family's clothes.
Old painted toys and furniture.
Food and liquids stored in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
Lead smelters or other industries that release lead into the air.
Hobbies that use lead, such as making pottery or stained glass,
or refinishing furniture.
Folk remedies that contain lead, such as "greta" and
"azarcon" used to treat an upset stomach.
Health Effects of Lead
In the United States,
about 900,000 children ages 1 to 5 have a blood-lead level above the level
People can get lead in their body if they:
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
Simple Things You Can Do
|Have your children tested for lead; if the child's blood lead level is 10-14 µg/dL or above, you should use housekeeping measures to reduce lead exposure. If blood lead levels of 15-19 µg/dL persist, you should arrange for an environmental inspection.|
|Wash your children's hands frequently, especially before meals and bedtime.|
|If your home was built before 1978, you may want to have the house tested for lead-based paint. You should take care of peeling and chipping paint. Water damaged, peeling or chipping paint, or paint that is scrapped on a friction surface creates lead contaminated paint dust. If you decided to renovate or abate the lead-based paint, you should consult an expert first.|
|Test for lead before remodeling or repairing older homes. If the home contains lead-based paint, you should hire a trained contractor to do the work. If you plan to do the work, you should consult an expert first.|
|Consider replacing windows if they are covered with lead paint. Friction bearing surfaces on windows can be an important source of lead dust.|
|Avoid using lead-glazed pottery or pewter dishes to store or serve foods.|
|Plant grass and shrubs over bare soil in the yard.|
|Keep children's play areas away from heavy traffic and buildings painted with deteriorating lead-based paint.|
|In high-exposure areas, take off shoes before entering the house, wet mop floors, and wash window wells often to get rid of lead dust. Do not vacuum unless you have a HEPA vacuum; vacuuming can spread lead dust. A HEPA vacuum has a special filter in it that prevents microscopic particles of lead and dust from escaping.|
|Wash fruits and vegetables (especially those grown close to or in soils contaminated with lead) before eating.|
|Always wash hands before meals.|
|Adults should shower or change clothes as soon as possible if exposed to lead at work or through such hobbies as ceramics or stained glass making.|
|Eat a well-balanced diet containing large amounts of Vitamin C, calcium and iron.|
|Use only water from the cold water tap for drinking and cooking. Flush faucets for 2-3 minutes when water hasn't been used for more than 6 hours.|
|Have tap water tested for lead by a state-approved laboratory if the house is over 40 years old, or has plumbing over 10 years old.|
|Don't use leaded gasoline. Replace engines (lawn mower, chain saw, etc.) that require leaded gasoline.|
|Don't store food in opened cans.|
For additional information, call the National Lead Information Clearinghouse
toll-free at 1-800-424-LEAD (1-800-424-5323). or your child's pediatrician.
Reproduced with permission, in part, from the Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology, Environmental Epidemiology Program and the centers for disease control. revised 2004
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