Are you concerned your child may have been exposed to lead? Every county health department in the Coastal Health District can provide a lead screening through a simple blood test. Call the health department in your county for information about cost and to make an appointment, if necessary. Find contact information for all the county health departments in the Coastal Health District by clicking here.
In a family's home, deteriorated lead based paint (ie; flaking, peeling, chipping, or water damaged, or lead based paint present in accessible surfaces and friction surfaces such as window, door and stairs) is a hazard and can pose a serious health that to that family. Lead poisoning can result from exposure to the lead dust created by this deterioration. Furthermore, any disturbance of lead based paint during repainting, remodeling, or renovating can result in the generation of lead dust hazards. Consequently, as of April 22, 2010, all contractors for pay who work on renovations in pre-1978, child occupied facilities are now required to be EPD certified and follow lead-safe work practices.
Children are especially vulnerable to the poisoning effects of lead paint. We inspect and sample any home where residents are reporting elevated blood lead levels. We investigate all sources of lead exposure through sampling and assessment, and then work with the homeowner to provide information on abatement.
Although the presence of lead-based paint in the home can be a concern, a child can be exposed to lead through other means including, but not limited to, toys, jewelry, fishing lures, glazed pottery, and other products available in today's market. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) was established to ensure the safety of consumer products. You can check product recalls and safety news on their website, www.cpsc.gov.
If you suspect any type of lead poisoning in your family, contact your local health department immediately.
More Information About Lead:
Lead is a strong poison that targets the body's nervous system, and can be especially harmful to young children under the age of six because their brains and central nervous system are still being formed. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services continues to describe childhood lead poisoning as "the most important environmental health risk for young children." Lead is absorbed in a manner similar to calcium, (mainly through the intestine) with accumulation in soft tissues and bone over time resulting in many different health effects. Even very low levels of exposure can result in reduced IQ, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, behavioral problems, stunted growth, impaired hearing, and kidney damage. At high levels of exposure, a child may become mentally retarded, fall into a coma, and even die from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning has also been associated with juvenile delinquency and criminal behavior.
While a child's intestine may absorb over 50 percent of a dose of lead, an adult's intestine will only absorb about 10 percent. Lead poisoning in adults can increase blood pressure and cause fertility problems, nerve disorders, muscle and joint pain, irritability, and memory or concentration problems, although it takes a significantly greater level of exposure to lead for adults than it does for kids to sustain adverse health effects. Most adults who get lead poisoning get exposed to lead at work and if they don't remove and wash contaminated clothing, tools, and skin at their worksite, they can potentially bring it home to their family.
When a pregnant woman has an elevated blood lead level, that lead can easily be transferred to the fetus, since lead crosses the placenta. In fact, pregnancy itself can cause lead to be released from the bone, where lead is stored--often for decades--after it first enters the blood stream. Once lead is released from the mother's bones, it re-enters the blood stream and can end up in the fetus. In other words, if a woman had been exposed to enough lead as a child for some of it to be stored in her bones, the mere fact of pregnancy can trigger the release of that lead and can cause the fetus to be exposed. In such cases, the baby is born with an elevated blood lead level.
So although lead poisoning remains a problem among all age groups, children are especially vulnerable, which makes the recent discoveries of lead in toys even more alarming. And while handling and mouthing a new toy may not constitute a high risk for every child, the only way to know for sure is to check the child's blood lead level.
A very important point to know is that a child who gets enough iron, calcium, and vitamin C in their diet will absorb less lead. Foods rich in iron include eggs, lean red meat, and beans. Dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, are high in calcium. And fresh citrus fruits, such as oranges and strawberries, are a great source of vitamin C. It's also extremely important to wash your child's hands frequently. Not only can this eliminate lead particles but it can reduce other bacterial and viral infections. While hand sanitizer is good at getting rid of common germs, it does not work against lead. In fact, it can actually help spread lead around to other surfaces in the home.
If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to a toy containing lead, remove the toy immediately and check http://www.cpsc.gov for photos and descriptions of recalled toys. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no obvious symptoms, so the only way to tell is to have a blood lead test. Testing for lead poisoning in children may be done at your pediatrician's office or at your local health department.
If lead is found in a child's blood, treatment options vary, from boosting a child's nutrition to help remove the lead from the body naturally to using a medication that binds to the metal in the blood to help the body clear it faster.
For even more information, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.