Even a little bit of lead exposure is too much in children!
What do you know about lead screening in children? Many parents think that lead exposure is a thing of the past. It is true that the risk of lead poisoning in children has improved over the years with removal of lead from gasoline, paint, and other environmental improvements, but the fact is many of our children are still at risk. Lead affects nearly every bodily system and is especially harmful to the developing brain in unborn children and young children. Even low levels of lead in the blood can affect IQ and academic achievement so it is important that we screen children who are at risk.
In the past, lead levels in children below 10 were not of concern. Recently the Center for Disease Control has lowered that level of concern to 5. This allows parents and health care providers to address the lead exposure quickly and prevent higher levels and damage to a child’s developing brain. The recommendation for chelation (treatment to remove lead from the blood) remains the same. This therapy may be provided when a child’s blood test results show lead at 45 micrograms per deciliter or more. However, we know that even small amounts of lead can be a problem, and there are steps parents can take to reduce a child’s exposure.
What can you do? What child should be screened?
- Share with your child’s health care provider if your home was built before 1978. There are lead testing kits that can be obtained from the local health department to test if your home has lead paint and dust.
- Test your home prior to doing renovation like sanding, painting, or other repair that could disturb paint.
- If you see dust or paint chips on window sills or other areas due to peeling paint, dust the areas frequently with a damp cloth. Clean your home regularly damp mopping frequently.
- Don’t let your child play in the dirt next to an older home, plant grass in bare areas in the yard.
- Remove shoes when you come in the home to prevent tracking in dirt with lead.
- Wash hands before eating and provide a healthy diet. Children who eat a healthy diet absorb less lead.
- If you live in an older home, run your tap water for a few minutes before using it to cook or drink or mix formula.
The only way you can know if your child’s lead level may be elevated is with a blood test. Your child usually will have no symptoms of lead exposure. If you are concerned that your child may have lead exposure, especially if you live in a home built before 1978, talk to your doctor about screening. Children often are screened starting at about the 9 month checkup. Be your child’s advocate! Learn about how to protect your child from lead exposure, because even a little is too much. For more information visit http://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/ and www.healthychildren.org.
Take a breath, enjoy the joyful moments of each day, and remember you don’t have to be perfect to be the perfect parent.
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