Minimize Your Child’s Exposure to Lead
August 20, 2013
Though the hazards posed by lead are well known, it’s worth noting that according to the EPA, the only safe level of lead in the body is none at all. In today’s world, zero exposure to lead is not a possibility. In an effort to minimize exposure to this potent neurotoxin, it’s critical to know where it hides. Some parents wrongly believe that lead is no longer of concern, since it is no longer allowed in house paint, or that some exposure is ok since we were all exposed as children. Unfortunately current science shows that this is far from the truth. Once you know where lead is found, you can address it.
Here’s what the experts advise:
• Check your child’s blood lead level. Lead poses the biggest risks to children under six. Test your child annually until at least the age of five and discuss the results with your pediatrician.
• Know the symptoms of lead poisoning. They include learning disabilities, memory loss, poor academic performance, difficulty understanding directions, hyperactivity, aggression, hearing loss, reduced eye-hand coordination, anemia, abdominal pains, constipation, vomiting, decreased appetite, and weight loss.
• Test your paint for lead if your dwelling was built before 1978. Lead-based consumer paint was banned in 1978. Newer coats of lead-free interior and exterior paint applied seal in the toxin. But cracks, peeling, or dust created by friction points on windows and doors can release it. If your exterior paint is lead-based, the soil around your home will also likely be contaminated.
• Check your tap water, too. Lead pipes were used until the 1920s, and lead pipe solder was used until the 1980s. Until you verify your water’s safety, use cold water for drinking and cooking, and run the tap for a minute before using its water.
• Ask your child’s school or day care center about lead testing. Any building built before 1978 is suspect. Federal law requires schools and day cares to ensure lead safety. There may also be state and local lead regulations about. Focus on more than just classrooms; lead is still found in “industrial” paints that might be used on playground equipment. Older paint layers may contain it, too. The soil around lead-painted structures may also contain lead.
• Damp clean to keep lead levels low. Dust can contain lead from old paint, contaminated soil, deteriorating vinyl including vinyl linoleum and other sources. Pick it up with a damp dust cloths and mops. (Dry cloths and mops just push the dust around.)
• Wash children’s hands frequently. This reduces the chances that they’ll ingest contaminated dust.
Want to learn more about how you can avoid exposure to lead in your child’s home and school environment? Read our new eBook Easy Steps to Healthy Schools & Daycares.