Get the Lead Out
August 30, 2007
Recently, the Consumer Product Safety Commission recalled millions of toys made in China that were contaminated with lead. Many stories have included where lead comes from but they haven't addressed what can happen if your child is exposed. Today, Dr. Mom helps parents to understand why lead can be harmful and what steps they should take to protect their children.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that approximately 890,000 US children aged 1-5 years have elevated blood lead levels.
How can my child be exposed to Lead?
Sources of Lead Exposure
- By getting lead dust from paint, toys, and dirt on their hands and putting their hands in their mouths
- Breathing lead dust from old paint
- Eating paint chips or dirt that is contaminated with lead
- Drinking water from pipes lined or soldered with lead
- Chewing on toys that are painted with lead-based paint
Signs and Symptoms of Lead Exposure may include:
- House Paint. In 1977 federal regulations banned the use of lead-based paint. It is likely that lead-based paint was used in homes built prior to 1977
- Dirt. High concentrations of lead can be found in the soil around major roads and older homes/buildings. Lead particles can remain in the soil for many years.
- Water. In 1980 Congress restricted the use of lead in pipes used in public water systems. Older homes with lead pipes, brass plumbing fixtures and copper pipes soldered with lead can be a source of exposure.
- Household dust can contain lead from the outside soil or paint chips.
- Food stored in ceramic dishes, especially dishes made in another country
- Some cosmetics or medications purchased in other countries
- Take home exposure – some parents may work where they get exposed to lead dust. These parents can then bring lead on their shoes or clothing into the car and into their home.
- Irritability or hyperactivity
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Abdominal pain
- Unusual paleness (from anemia)
- Learning difficulties
Effects of Lead Exposure
The complications of lead exposure may include:
Lead exposure, even low levels of exposure, is harmful to children especially in the developmental years. These problems may not be noticeable until a child reaches school age.
- Language development
- Learning disabilities
- Kidney damage
- Decreased muscle and bone growth
- Hearing loss
- Seizures and coma
Have your pediatrician or family physician perform a lead screening on your child. The screening involves completing a risk questionnaire and possibly taking a blood sample.
For more information: