Lead poisoning is preventable

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By Diana Leathers, Community Health Educator

 Lead poisoning is one of the most preventable health problems affecting children today. The CDC reports that 250,000 children in the United States between the ages of one and five have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Lead is much more harmful to children because it damages their developing nerves and brains. The goal is to prevent lead exposure before children are harmed.

Lead is a very strong poison. Unfortunately, you cannot see, smell or taste lead. The two largest sources of lead poisoning in children are lead paint and “bring-home” lead from parents' workplaces. Because of their tendency to put their hands and other objects into their mouths, children under the age of six and children who live in older homes in cities are most at risk for lead poisoning. Homes built prior to 1978 are especially susceptible to having lead based paint. Other sources include imported toys, furniture, and jewelry. Plumbing pipes and faucets may contain lead that in turn contaminates drinking water. 

Signs of lead poisoning are not always easy to see and symptoms may go unrecognized for some time. Because of this, children may be poisoned and not act or look sick. Lead exposure can have severe and long-term health effects on young children. Some of these effects may include: learning disabilities, trouble sleeping, hyperactivity, stomach aches and pain, impaired hearing, weight loss and possible brain damage. However, lead can be detected by a simple blood test-the CDC recommends testing at 12 months of age and again at 24 months of age, with follow-up as required by the child's physician.

Parents can help protect children from lead poisoning by reducing exposure to lead in the child's environment. Other precautions include:

• Get your children tested for lead poisoning, even if he or she appears healthy

• Regularly wash your children's hands, especially before mealtime, naptime and bedtime

• Wash toys, stuffed animals, bottles and pacifiers often to remove dust which may contain lead particles

• Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window sills and frames

• Prevent children from playing in bare soil outside; provide them with a grassy area or a sandbox to play in

• Use only cold water for cooking, drinking and making baby formula

• Provide meals and snacks high in Iron, Vitamin C and Calcium which help prevent young bodies from absorbing lead

• Inspect your home and children's play area for loose or peeling paint. Contact a professional to remove any lead paint.

For more information on lead poisoning and lead safety issues, visit the Environmental Protection Agency's website at www.epa.gov or the CDC's website at www.cdc.gov. You can also call the LaRue County Health Department at (270) 358-3844.