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Lead Poisoning In Children: What Parents Should Knowhealthychildren.org | 01-28-16

Exposure to lead is one of the most serious environmental problems for children.  The events in Flint, Michigan have brought this issue to a much heightened concern and appropriately so.  However, exposure to lead from our public sources of water is not the typical way that our children are exposed and sometimes affected by lead.  Given the recent media coverage, it is important that you have a more complete understanding of this problem so that you can protect your children.  A child can get lead into the body if he swallows lead dust, breathes lead vapors, or eats soil or paint chips that have lead in them.  Lead poisoning can then cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, anemia, or damage to the brain and kidneys.  A child who has high levels of lead in their blood may not look or act sick.  The only way to know if your child has lead in her body is with a blood test.

Lead is most commonly found in

  • Paint that is on the inside of homes built before 1978
  • Dust and paint chips from old paint
  • Soil that has lead in it
  • Hobby materials such as paints, solders, fishing weights, and buckshot
  • Food stored in certain ceramic dishes
  • Older painted toys and furniture such as cribs
  • Tap water, especially in homes that have lead solder on pipes
  • Mini-blinds manufactured outside the United States before July 1997

What Can Parents Do?

If your home was built before 1978, test the paint for lead.  If lead paint is found, get expert advice on how to repair it safely.  There are treatment options for lead poisoning but the best treatment is prevention of exposure in the first place.

  • Don’t scrape or sand paint that may have lead in it
  • Clean painted areas with soap and water and cover peeling, flaking or chipping paint with new paint, duct tape or contact paper
  • Make sure painted areas are repaired before putting cribs, playpens, beds, or highchairs next to them
  • Ask your pediatrician if a lead test is indicated for your child
  • Encourage your child to wash his hands often, especially before eating
  • Give your child a healthy diet with the right amounts of iron and calcium
  • Never live in an old house while it’s being renovated
  • If you move to a new area, check with the health department and ask if the water contains lead