Lead Poisoning: How to Prevent It, Spot It, and Cure It

Suzanne Murray

juice box leadThe recent report from the Environmental Law Foundation (ELF) stating that an incredible number of the foods and drinks we give our kids are tainted with lead -- including some trusted, organic brands -- has a lot of moms worried. And rightly so. Lead poisoning is no joke.

Every year over 300,000 kids (ages 1 to 5) are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood. And long-term exposure can cause serious health problems and developmental delays.

Thanks to ELF, we now know to avoid the foods on the list, but that won't ease your mind if your child has already had some of them. You're likely wondering:

How much of that food would my kid have to eat to get sick? How will you know if he does have lead poisoning? And if he does, how do I treat it?

Kate Cronan, MD, a medical editor at Nemours KidsHealth.org, gave me the answers to all of those questions.

How concerned should parents be about lead poisoning if their children have had some of the food on the Environmental Law Foundation's list? 

There is no definite number of juice boxes or cans of fruit that is known to cause problems with lead poisoning. The most important action is for the child to be on a well-balanced diet that includes adequate amounts of calcium, iron, and vitamin C. These can help the body to get rid of lead. Parents should talk to their child's doctor about the most healthy diet to help avoid lead poisoning. 

Are there any specific symptoms of lead poisoning a parent can look for? 

It's important to know that many children with lead poisoning do not show any symptoms. If the child's lead level is high, there is a possibility of showing some vague symptoms, which may include:   

  • fussiness
  • pica (eating non-nutritious things such as dirt and paint chips)
  • poor appetite
  • weight loss
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • belly pain
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • appearing weak
  • headache ( if old enough to complain of headache)
  • pale skin

What should a parent do if a child has high levels of lead in his system? 

If a child is found to have a high lead level in their blood, the first thing to do is to contact the child's doctor. The doctor will know what type of treatment is needed, depending on how high the blood lead level is. If the level is in a specific range, the child will need medication to lower the lead level. This is usually given through an IV. In addition, the parents should seek information about lowering the exposure to lead in the home.

Has your child been eating and drinking foods and beverages from ELF's list? Are you worried about lead poisoning?


Image via Spider.Dog/Flickr

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