A Scare Before Halloween: It's Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

Health & Wellness on 10.23.11
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Image: LeadFreeKids

I like my kids unleaded. They knock a bit, but better dingy than dosed with poison.  

Seriously, though, if you thought lead poisoning of children went away when lead was banned in fuels and paint pigments, think again. In fact, most homes and buildings painted before 1978 have lead on the walls and windowsills. And that paint poses even more danger as it ages and flakes than it did when it was fresh. The legacy of leaded fuels and external paint flakes remains in dirt and on dust in the environment, which can be tracked into houses on shoes or blown in on the wind.

Is my child at risk?

Lead damages the brain and nervous system, which can cause behavioral and learning problems. How can you know if your child is being affected by lead exposure? The list of symptoms to look for includes:

  • Persistent tiredness or hyperactivity
  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight Loss
  • Reduced attention span
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Constipation

Sound like 99% of the kids you know? Yeah, the fact is that lead is a slow poison, and is difficult to detect. Also, by the time serious signs of lead poisoning appear, a lot of damage is done.

Better to know before they slow. You can find a certified home lead inspection professional in your zipcode at this link on the website for Lead Free Kids. If you do not own your home, be sure to notify your landlord immediately of any chipping or flaking paint. You may have to remind your landlord of their obligations under the Lead Disclosure Rules. If you cannot afford testing or your landlord is not cooperative, contact your local social services people to see if assistance is available.

You can also have a doctor test for lead in your child's body, preferably by ages 1 and 2, if you are concerned that your house or apartment is a high risk. Check to see if agencies in your state offer free lead screening during lead prevention week or at other times of the year.

Protect your family

The link to lead inspection professionals above can also help you find a qualified and certified remediation professional. Do not try to remove leaded paints yourself; if done incorrectly, you will only end up increasing the risk you are trying to remove.

In the meantime, keep kids' play areas clean. Wash their hands before eating and nap times, and clean toys that children chew or suck on frequently. Take some care to ensure those toys do not come pre-contaminated with lead as well.  

Dust windowsills with a damp cloth, or use a bit of dish soap if you experience a sticky or oily resistance to your damp cloth. Sweep or vacuum often. Most modern vacuums come with a HEPA filter that prevents particles of dust from blowing back into the breathing air. If you do not own such a miracle of modern engineering, keep your kids (and pregnant women) out of the cleaning zone for an hour after sweeping or vacuuming.

If exterior paint applied before 1978 is flaking, make a habit of removing shoes at the door to prevent tracking lead into the house. It can also help to keep grass growing around the area, which prevents contact with the soils where lead chips can accumulate over the years.

Learn more and spread the word

You can learn more at LeadFreeKids or from the EPA or at the CDC National Lead Prevention Week.

Finally, you can help to get the word out. Share this information on your facebook page, or tell your friends what you have learned.

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