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The Dangers of Lead, & Week in Review

Dear Debi,
How can I prevent my child from getting lead poisoning?
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • If your house or apartment was built before 1978, examine your home for any deteriorated paint both inside and outside
  • Clean up paint chips and peeling paint safely
  • Check with the Consumer Product Safety Commission for any recalls on toys or jewelry with lead
  • Dispose of toys if the paint is peeling or chipping
  • Wash your child’s hands and face frequently, especially before eating
  • Eat calcium-rich foods and foods rich in iron
Week in Review
Don’t forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Deborah Reff, CHES
Deborah Reff, CHES
Certified Health Education Specialist
Causes of Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning in children occurs because infants and young children often have their hands or toys in their mouths. They also play and crawl inside and outside buildings. If homes or apartments were built before 1978, the paint, soil, and dust may contain lead.

One of the most common sources of lead poisoning is when children put lead paint chips in their mouths, or eat objects from the floor that are covered with lead dust. In addition, deteriorated lead paint can also fall into the soil. Soil was also contaminated with lead when leaded gasoline was used. Again, if children put soil contaminated with lead in their mouth, then lead poisoning can occur.

Children can also become poisoned if their parents work in an industry or hobby where they are exposed to lead and they do not properly change clothes and shower to remove the lead dust before they come home.

Other ways are from folk remedies, imported ceramics, imported candies where there is lead in the candy or wrapper, jewelry, toys, and lead-contaminated water.

Lead can also be inhaled (usually by adults who work with lead) and can be passed to an unborn child from the mother via the placenta.

Signs and Symptoms
Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Symptoms, if present, may be confused with common childhood complaints, such as stomachache, crankiness, headaches, or loss of appetite.

The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is for the child to get a blood test for lead. If you suspect your child has lead poisoning then talk to your child’s health care provider. Your child may need a blood test for lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning can be treated through identifying the source(s) of lead exposure, eliminating the source(s), improving the nutrition of the child, and educating the family.

A child who eats a balanced diet with plenty of foods that contain iron and calcium will absorb less lead. Finding the lead source and preventing additional exposure are essential.

For extremely high levels of lead poisoning, medical intervention (chelation) may be used.

If your house or apartment was built before 1978 (before lead paint was banned), look and see if there is any deteriorated paint inside or out.

Clean up paint chips and peeling paint safely. Your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can give you information on safe cleaning. Keep furniture away from damaged paint. Pay special attention to cribs, beds, highchairs and playpens.

If you are going to repair the paint or do any remodeling, use lead safe work practices. Until you are able to repair paint, you should wash toys, floors, countertops, windowsills, and wet-mop floors weekly with an all-purpose detergent. Try to keep a barrier between young children and the deteriorated paint. Do not sweep floors.

If you work with lead at your job or hobby, take a shower at your workplace, if possible. Otherwise, shower and remove clothing immediately upon returning home. Handle clothing carefully and wash separately. Take off your shoes before entering the house. (Wipe shoes off—this will help prevent lead dust and soil from getting into your house.)

Don’t let your child play in areas where soil is exposed.

Avoid using imported home remedies or cosmetics that contain lead.

Parents can also check the consumer product safety commission website to get the number for the hotline to look at recall lists, including those lists for toys and jewelry. Check recall lists online to see what toys have been recalled.

Dispose of toys if the paint is peeling or chipping. Parents also need to be careful about the jewelry they purchase or receive as gifts for young children. Parents should not put jewelry on infants, toddlers, and young children who put non-food items in their mouths.

Wash your child’s hands and face frequently, especially before eating. Eat calcium-rich foods (cheese, milk, spinach, salmon, yogurt, tofu, and leafy greens). Eat iron-rich foods (lean red meat, chicken or turkey without skin, raisins, beans, oatmeal, and split peas). Eat vitamin C to help the body absorb iron (fruit juice, oranges, grapefruit, tomatoes, broccoli, kiwi, and strawberries). Check with your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program for any imported candies that have been recalled.

Family Quilt Featured Activity:
Family Quilt
Child Care Provider of the Week Featured Video:
Child Care Provider of the Week
Topic: Health & Safety
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