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Lead Poisoning

If you think your home has high levels of lead:

• Have young children tested for lead, even if they seem healthy.

• Make sure your entire family washes their hands before eating and going to bed.

• Wash children's bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.

• Make sure children eat healthy foods with adequate iron and calcium. These minerals help decrease the absorption of lead.

• Have your home checked for lead hazards, including water faucets.

• Clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces with soapy water often.

• Wipe soil off shoes before entering house.

• Talk with your landlord about fixing surfaces with peeling or chipping paint.

• Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating (call 1-800-424-LEAD for guidelines).

• Do not use a belt-sander, propane torch, dry scraper, or dry sandpaper on painted surfaces that may contain lead.

• Do not try to remove lead-based paint yourself. Have it professionally removed.

Another Source of Lead May Be Antique Furniture

Old furniture, which was previously painted, may contain lead, according to a report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The caustic paint stripper used to remove lead-based paint can cause the lead to actually leach into the wood. Any subsequent sanding of the furniture can release lead particles into the air. The CDC advises people to avoid sanding old furniture around children and to clean up the dust thoroughly afterward. Also, change clothes and shoes, and shower as soon as possible after sanding.

Facts about lead exposure:

  • Lead poisoning is a totally preventable disease.
  • Lead exposure can harm young children and babies--even before they are born.
  • Even children that seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
  • Children can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips with lead in them.
  • Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates reveal that about 250,000 children between the ages of one and five living the in the US have an elevated level of lead in their blood.

Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because:

  • They often put their hands and other objects in their mouths that can have lead dust on them.
  • Their growing bodies absorb more lead.
  • Their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

Children between the ages of 1 and 3 who live in low-income housing built before 1978 are especially at risk. In early 2005, the Consumer Product Safety Commission announced a new policy addressing lead in children's metal jewelry. There have been cases where children who swallowed or repeatedly sucked on jewelry items containing lead developed high blood lead levels. Since 2004, the Commission has recalled over 150 million pieces of toy jewelry that were sold in vending machines and through other outlets.

Effects of lead in the body:

Lead poisoning can affect just about every system in the body yet often produces no definitive symptoms. The following are some of the most common symptoms of lead poisoning. However, each child may experience symptoms differently. Lead poisoning may cause:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Headaches
  • Anemia

Lead is also harmful to adults, who may suffer from:

  • Difficulties during pregnancy
  • Reproductive problems in both men and women
  • High blood pressure
  • Digestive problems
  • Nerve disorders
  • Memory and concentration problems
  • Muscle and joint pain

High levels of lead may also cause seizures, coma, and death. The symptoms of lead poisoning may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your child's physician for a diagnosis.

Testing children for lead exposure:

If you think your home has high levels of lead, get your children tested. A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead, and is important for:

  • Children who are 6 months to 1 year old (6 months if you live in an older home that might have lead in the paint). If your child is older than 1 year, talk to your child's physician about whether he or she needs testing.
  • Family members whom you think might have high levels of lead.

Your child's physician can test your child's blood levels. The tests are inexpensive or, in some cases, free. Your child's physician will explain the test results. Treatment can range from changes in your diet to medications or a hospital stay.

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