Lead Poisoning: How to Protect Our Children

boy at window sill From learning disabilities to brain damage, kidney problems to death, lead poisoning is among the most dangerous environmental threats to our children.

It's found not just in old paint chips, but in many of the everyday objects and surfaces our babies are likely to come into contact with regularly, like bounce houses and juice boxes.

So how can we protect our children?

Dr. Richard Geller, Executive Medical Director of the California Poison Control Center, offers 10 tips to help prevent lead poisoning in children:


1. Make sure your children do not chew on painted surfaces, such as toys or windowsills.

2. Report chipped or cracked paint to your landlord if you live in an older home built before 1978.

3. Cover paint that is peeling or chipping with duct tape until it can be removed.

4. Ask your doctor to test your young children for lead even if they seem healthy. 

5. Children's necklaces and bracelets, adult watches, as well as religious jewelry from Mexico have been found to contain lead. 

6. Keys frequently have small amounts of lead in them -- do not let babies play with or teethe on your key chain.

7. Run the faucet for a few minutes before using cold water for cooking, drinking, or preparing infant formula (this can help flush out the lead, which can build up in sitting water), especially if the cold water hasn't been used in the past two hours.

8. Avoid eating foods that are canned outside the United States.

9. Traces of lead have been found in some candy and its packaging imported from Mexico containing chili or tamarind.

10. Folk medicines (especially home remedies) imported from another country also contain lead. These include: pay-loo-ah (fever and rash treatment); azarcon (also called Maria Luisa, Liga, Alarzon, Greta, Coral, and Rueda); Asian folk remedies, including Ghasard, Bali Goli, and Kandu; and Middle Eastern folk remedies, including farouk and bint al zahab.

How would you know if your child has been exposed to too much lead?

While many children don't show any symptoms of lead poisoning, others exhibit a variety of them, including: Fussiness, pica (eating non-nutritious things such as dirt and paint chips), poor appetite, weight loss, fatigue, belly pain, vomiting, constipation, appearing weak, and headaches.

If you suspect a child is being affected, see your doctor immediately.

Has your child had lead poisoning? What steps do you take to prevent it?


Image via VirtualErn/Flickr

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