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What Is Childhood Lead Poisoning & How Are Children Exposed?

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Information from the Allegany County Department of Health

Does your child play on the floor? Do you have toys or dishes that are made in other countries? If so, then your child may be at risk for lead exposure. A child can also be exposed to lead if they are with an adult often who might bring home lead from a job or hobby. Some activities include house painting, plumbing, renovation, auto repair, welding, electronics repair, fishing, firearms, jewelry making and more.

This information is important for parents, grandparents, guardians, and daycare providers because lead poisoning can have impacts on children for years to come. What is lead? Lead is a metal that can harm children when it gets into their bodies. Exposure is cumulative and lead levels within the body build until the source of exposure is removed. How does lead harm children?

 Lead can harm a young child’s growth, behavior, and ability to learn. It can also cause anemia, kidney damage, and hearing loss. These effects are not reversible once exposed to lead and damage increases with increased exposure levels. What are sources of lead?

There are many sources of lead. Lead can be found in dust, air, water, soil, and in some products used in and around our homes. Lead exposure may increase if living in a home built before 1978 with peeling or chipping paint or during recent or ongoing home remodeling. Children can also be exposed to lead if the family uses traditional medicines, cosmetics, spices, foods, candy and powders imported from the Middle East, Latin America, South Asia, and China. Lead can also be found in crystal, pewter or pottery from other countries, handmade pottery with paint or glaze, or antique dishes.

Risk of exposure increases if families cook or store food in these types of containers or dishes. It is important to remember to have your child tested for lead at age 1 and again at age 2. Talk to your child’s healthcare provider today about testing them for lead. Children between the ages of 1 and 2 are more likely to be exposed to lead dust and paint through crawling and hand-to-mouth activities. How can I protect my family and myself from lead exposures?

You can protect your child by keeping them away from peeling paint and keeping homes in good repair. Use proper cleaning techniques such as wet washing windowsills, window wells, walls, floors, and doorframes. Wash your hands and have your children wash their hands after play, before meals, and feed them foods with vitamin C, Calcium, and Iron that help protect from lead absorption in the body. These foods include sweet potatoes, dried fruits, eggs, peanut butter, dark green veggies, dairy products, and whole grains. Learn more about how you can protect your family from lead at www.health.ny.gov/lead. Check product recalls for clothes, toys, jewelry, furniture, etc. that contain lead-based paint.

Sign-up for children’s product recall alerts at www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist. For more information check the National Lead Information Center: www.epa.gov/lead and lead in drinking water website: www.epa.gov/safewater/lead. Call the Allegany County Department of Health at (585) 268-9250 for more information.

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