CHILDREN & LEAD POISONING
Each year in the United States, 310,000 1- to 5-year-old kids are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood. Small children can be exposed by eating lead-based paint chips, chewing on objects painted with lead-based paint, or swallowing house dust or soil that contains lead.
Lead was banned in US residential paints by 1978, so properties built after 1978 should be free from lead-based paints. Homes built between 1950 and 1978 may contain lead-based paint, although other types of paints were used. Homes built before 1950 have the greatest chance of containing some lead-based paint. The older the house, the greater the chance it contains lead.
Lead Case Management Program at Richland Public Health
There is no safe level of lead in a child’s blood. Children enrolled on Medicaid are to be tested at age 1 and 2. ALL children living in a high-risk zip code must be tested. All children should be tested at least once.
There is no safe level for lead in the blood. Children with blood lead levels equal to or higher than 5 micrograms can have issues such as lower IQ, delayed growth, learning issues, or ADHD.
All children with an elevated blood lead level over 10 micrograms (are considered lead poisoned) and eligible for case management with a Richland Public Health Nurse.
The goal is to lower the child’s lead level as quickly as possible. To do that a public health nurse will make contact with the family to share information and offer a home visit. The home visit includes education which focuses on medical, nutritional, and environmental concerns explaining lead poisoning and what to do. Information is also gathered through a brief questionnaire and any needed referrals for medical or behavioral concerns will be completed by the nurse.
Richland Public Health works in conjunction with the Ohio Department of Health. Education and case management is performed at the local level by the public health nurse. The state has an environmental inspector who will make contact with the family in order to determine the source of the lead.
How Lead Poisoning Affects a Child
Children are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults. A child who swallows large amounts of lead may develop blood anemia, severe stomachache, muscle weakness, and brain damage. If a child swallows smaller amounts of lead, much less severe effects on blood and brain function may occur. Even at much lower levels of exposure, lead can affect a child’s mental and physical growth.
Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning in children include:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
Healthly Homes and Lead Prevention Links
- Lead Poisoning & Children Frequently Asked Questions
- ODH Lead Website Links
- Fight Lead with Healthy Food Options
- Lead Flyer Infographic
Cleaning Lead Dust
As lead paint ages, it causes invisible, yet toxic dust as it chips, peels, cracks, chalks or through friction. Lead dust is the #1 cause of childhood lead poisoning. Children are most susceptible to the effects of the neurotoxin lead, which can affect normal brain development. Sources of lead dust include:
- Deteriorated paint – paint that is chipping, peeling, cracking or chalking
- Renovated surfaces that contain old paint – this includes do-it-yourself window replacement
- Leaded gasoline exhaust. Soil within several feet of roads is contaminated from years of leaded gasoline use.
- Lead in soil. Removing shoes at the door will help contain some lead dust from soil. Be aware that newer properties built where orchards used to grow contain possible lead arsenate pesticides in the soil.
- Family member works in a lead-related industry (car repair, firing range, lead acid battery, stained glass, smelter, pottery, solder)
If you live in a house that contains lead, cleaning techniques that are more effective include:
- Use a HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) filter vacuum, which removes 99.97% of dust particulates, including lead. If a HEPA is not available, vacuum when children are not present. Lead dust can stay suspended in the air for up to an hour.
- Vacuum heating ducts before operating furnace.
- When dealing with lead dust, wet is best. Use a cleaning solution high in phosphates, such as Spic N Span or automatic dishwasher powdered soap. Mix ¼ cup to 1 gallon warm water, and wear rubber gloves while cleaning. Wipe surfaces with the phosphate solution, then rinse with clean water. Change water in buckets for each room or as necessary, and pour water down toilet.
- Removing carpets makes cleaning easier. Carpets can trap lead dust and allergens, which can also cause asthma. If possible, consider removing carpets, especially if they are contaminated with lead dust.
Be aware that pet fur can contain lead dust, from outdoors or contaminated window sills. Make sure that children wash hands after petting animals, and keep any child-accessible pet bedding clean.
Wash items frequently, such as blankets, soft toys and other stuffed animals. Hard plastic toys should be cleaned and rinsed well frequently, especially toys the child puts in the mouth. If family member work in a lead industry, wash clothes separate from children’s clothes to prevent cross contamination.