WHAT IS LEAD POISONING?
Lead poisoning occurs when lead is swallowed and/or inhaled and most often by lead dust you can't even see.Lead-based paint is still the most common source of lead poisoning today.As lead-based paint deteriorates, (flaking, chipping, or peeling) turning into paint chips or dust, it enters the body through inhalation or hand-to-mouth contact (most common with children). Lead-based paint is not the only source of lead, however.Other common sources are water that has passed through lead lined pipes, soil contaminated with lead paint chips, food grown in lead-contaminated soil and certain home hobbies and jobs in which one would come in contact with or use lead-based products.
LEAD AND CHILDREN
Although lead poisoning is extremely dangerous to everyone, children run a special risk of being exposed to lead.Some of the symptoms of children with lead poisoning might complain of include headache, stomachache, irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, and joint pain.This creates ongoing problems with detection, since the symptoms are not always obvious and can be attributed to other causes such as the flu.
Because many symptoms of lead poisoning are vague or similar to the flu, parents may not get immediate medical attention for their child.It is critical that blood tests and the child’s environment be checked as early as possible in order to limit exposure to the cause of the poisoning.This will also help ensure younger siblings are safe and determine the harmful lead hazards so they can be reduced or removed to limit or eliminate further lead exposure. The longer lead remains in the body of a young child, the higher the risk of permanent damage.
Lead in the blood over time may:
- Interfere with growth and development.
- Cause brain damage until the age of six.
- Diminish intelligence, lower IQ.
- Decrease hearing ability resulting in behavioral problems such as hyperactivity, inability to concentrate.
- High levels of lead can cause convulsions, coma and even death.
Why are young children at the greatest risk?
Young children spend a lot of time on the floor playing and crawling.They also like to put their hands, toys and other things in their mouths greatly increasing their chances of swallowing lead dust and paint chips.Keep in mind, only a tiny amount of lead is needed to harm a young, growing child.
How can I know if a child has lead poisoning?
Remember, a child with lead poisoning usually does not look or feel sick. The only sure way to know is to get a blood lead test.
Children are at higher risk if they:
- Live, or spend a lot of time in a home built before 1978
- Live near busy roads or industry
- Live with people who work with lead
- Are recent immigrants
- Eat paint chips, plaster, or soil
- Have a brother or sister with a high lead level
What can I do to protect my child from lead?
- Keep children away from peeling, chipping paint. Repair any peeling, chipping paint whenever possible.
- Wash their hands frequently, especially before meals.
- Make sure that both you and your children leave their shoes at the door to avoid the spread of lead dust throughout the home.
- Since the body mistakes lead for iron, feed children a diet that is high in iron and calcium, but low in fat
- Wash children's hands and toys often, even if they don't look dirty-especially if the toys are dropped on the floor.
- Mop floors often, and use damp cloths to clean windowsills. Pour dirty water into the toilet.
- Use a vacuum cleaner with a HEPA Filer (stands for High-Efficiency Particulate Air Filter).
- Parents should have their children's blood tested, beginning at six months of age to one year, for the presence of lead. Testing may be done at your physician's office or health clinic.
- Free testing is available at the Manchester Health Department. Call (603) 624-6466 for information.
LEAD IN THE HOME
If you live in a house or apartment built before 1978:
- Please read the Renovate Right pamphlet before you do any repair work to find out how to paint and repair safely.
- Children and pregnant women as a rule of thumb should simply stay away from home repairs whenever possible.
- Keep infants and young children away from any and all paint chips, plaster, dust or dirt.
- Ask your landlord or realtor about possible existing lead hazards before you rent or buy a home.
Don't bring lead into your home
Use extra caution with jobs or hobbies that involve working with lead like home or building restoration, stained glass work, plumbing, lead bullets, some craft paint, lead fishing sinkers, some kinds of pottery glaze and lead solder.Also keep in mind that lead still exists in some children's jewelry and charms, old painted toys and furniture.
Other precautions to consider if you work with lead:
- Change out of work clothes and shoes before going home to children.
- Wash your hands and face before heading home to the family.If possible, showering would be an even safer option.
- Always wash work clothes separately from everyday/family clothes.
Tips to help keep lead out of your food and water:
- It’s a good idea to let tap water run for a bit before you use it. This will help clear out the lead from old plumbing.
- Try to use only cold tap water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula.Remember, hot or warm water makes it easier for lead to leech from pipes or solder.
- Avoid using dishes or pots you suspect may contain lead.Pottery from Latin America, the Middle East, and India is more likely to contain lead.Also, painted china, leaded glass, crystal and pewter will most often times contain lead.
- Traditional medicines, herbs, spices and cosmetics from other countries have also been found to contain lead in some cases.Items such as Ayurvedic medicine; cosmetics such as Kohl and Surma; and in Liga, Greta, Azarcon, Litargirio and others have been guilty of lead content.Avoid using these products and any others you may even suspect have lead in them.
Serve foods rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help protect children from lead.
Foods with calcium include milk, cheese, yogurt, and spinach.Foods with iron include beans, meat, peas, spinach, eggs, and cereal.Foods with vitamin C include oranges, orange juice, grapefruits, tomatoes, and green peppers.
Lead Poisoning can be very dangerous for pregnant women but especially for the unborn baby.Since lead poisoning is caused by breathing or swallowing lead, this lead can easily pass from a mother to her unborn child.
Some of the dangers for pregnant women with too much lead in their bodies are:
- Higher risk for miscarriage
- Higher risk for the baby to be born too early or too small
- Higher risk to damage the baby’s brain, kidneys and nervous system
- Higher risk for the child to have learning or behavior problems later in life
Lead can often be found in:
- Paint and dust in older homes, especially dust from renovation or repairs
- Candy, make up, glazed pots, and folk medicine made in other countries
- Work like auto refinishing, construction and plumbing
- Soil and tap water
Tips for keeping your baby safe from lead poisoning:
- Be on the look-out for lead in your home.
The most common source of lead comes from paint in older homes.As old paint cracks, chips and peels, it makes dangerous lead dust which is so small, it cannot be seen.Lead dust can be inhaled without even knowing it.Home repairs like sanding or scraping paint can also make dangerous lead dust.As a rule of thumb, pregnant women should not be in the house during cleaning, painting or remodeling a room with lead paint.
- Speak with your doctor or local health department.
Even in this day and age, some home remedies and dietary supplements may still contain lead.If you are concerned or suspect lead, bring the bottle or box to your doctor to get their opinion.
- Be cautious with certain jobs or hobbies.
Certain hobbies or jobs involve lead exposure such as construction or home renovation, battery manufacturing, recycling, stained glass and oil painting.To help avoid take-home lead dust it is a good idea to have anyone dealing with lead on a regular basis to change into clean clothing before coming home, keep work shoes outside and wash all work clothes separately from the rest of the family.
- Foods with calcium, iron, and vitamin C can help protect you and your unborn baby.
- With candies, spices and other foods imported or brought into the country by travelers, use caution, especially if they appear to be non-commercial products.
- Calcium: milk, yogurt, cheese and green leafy vegetables like spinach.
- Iron: lean red meat, beans, cereals and spinach.
- Vitamin C: oranges, green and red peppers, broccoli, tomatoes and juices.
- Use caution with food storage.
Some containers or dishes may contain lead, especially those imported from other countries like Mexico, India and certain Middle Eastern countries. Be sure to always serve and store your food safely.
- Keep away from imported lead-glazed ceramic pottery.
- Do not use pewter or brass containers/utensils to cook, serve or store food.
- Avoid using leaded crystal to serve or store beverages.
- Do not use dishes that are chipped or cracked.