National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is October 23-29, 2011

by Howard L. Weinberger, MD & Steven D. Blatt, MD

national lead poisoning prevention week, October 23-29, 2011
From time to time we hear stories on the news about toys or cosmetics having lead paint in them. If you are old enough, you may remember that gasoline was once “leaded” but federal legislation led to its removal in the 1970’s. Many people know that paint in old houses contains lead. Since 1978, house paint has been lead free. It may seem we no longer have to worry about lead exposure. Why is it still important to prevent lead poisoning and how can you keep your child safe from lead poisoning?

Lead can harm the body in many ways. If there is a lot of lead in the body, it can cause developmental delay. That is, it prevents the brain from developing as it normally would. Fortunately, we can identify children who have been exposed to lead and prevent the lead levels from getting high enough to cause serious damage.

The only way to know if your child or an adult has been exposed to lead in the environment is by a test to measure the amount of lead in the blood. New York State requires physicians to test all children with a blood lead test at one and two years of age. In many pediatric offices, the doctor will order this test at the one and two year Well Child Visit. If your child is found to have an elevated blood lead level, don’t panic. For most children, no medical treatment is necessary. Whenever a child’s blood lead level is even mildly elevated, the source of the exposure needs to be identified and eliminated.

If your child does have lead in the body, where did it come from and what do we do about it? Even though house paint bought at the store no longer has lead in it, three out of every four houses in Central New York were built when paint did have lead it. That means if your house was built prior to 1978, it most likely has lead on its walls, both indoors and outside. When the paint chips get in the dirt on the outside of the house or in the dust inside of the house, lead may eventually find its way into the child’s mouth. Children often put their hands or toys covered with “leaded-dust” into their mouth or may actually eat paint chips. Chipped paint, especially on window frames and railings are common sources of lead.

Your local county Health Department can help you identify the sources of exposure in your house and make recommendations for making your home safe. They will help even if you are renting the home or apartment. The lead in house doesn’t have to be removed. It would be impossible to remove all the lead from all the houses in Upstate New York. The practical approach is to ensure that the lead in the house paint stays on the walls. If your house has chipping paint, it needs to be corrected safely.

Rarely, some children are found to have high blood lead levels. These children will be offered medical treatment to help the body excrete the lead quickly. This is called chelation. Most children will never need this treatment.

As an adult, you may be at risk for exposure to lead especially if you are a pregnant woman, if you participate in certain hobbies which use lead (fishing sinkers, lead solder, stained glass, and jewelry work), or if you work in certain industries.

In our pediatrics office, we follow New York State requirements and do a blood test for lead at one and two years of age. When you take your child for his or her checkup, your child’s doctor should do the same. If not, ask for a lead test. Tell the doctor you want to be sure your child does not have lead exposure and you can only be certain by doing a blood test.

Prevent Lead Poisoning. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts! Click here…

This entry was posted in Peds to Parents. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments are closed.