Lead is bad for you. You should know this. Most people have heard the phrase “lead poisoning” since they were little children.
Lead was removed from gasoline in 1995. Superman can’t even see through lead. The crisis of lead in the public drinking supply of Flint, Michigan has recently made national news.
What can lead do? Lead can damage a child’s brain and nervous system. It’s especially dangerous for unborn children and children under age 6, because their rapidly developing bodies absorb more lead. Lead can also cause permanent learning and behavioral problems, making it difficult for children to succeed in school.
Most children get lead poisoning by eating paint, soil, or dust that contains lead. This occurs when lead-based paint chips or peels from walls. Lead dust settles on toys, fingers, and other objects children put in their mouths.
Other sources of lead poisoning can include imported toys, jewelry, candies, and food products.
Handmade, imported ceramics are often made with lead-based glaze or paint. Lead is in pots and dishes that are old, handmade, or made outside of the U.S. Have these tested for lead before you use them for food or drinks. Call your local Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (1-800-524-5323) to find out about testing your pots and dishes.
Traditional home remedies such as Azarcon, Greta, and Pay-loo-ah contain lead. And traditional cosmetics such as Kohl and Surma also contain lead. Some imported candies contain lead, especially candies from Mexico made with tamarind fruit.
A blood test is the only way to know if a child has lead poisoning. Most children with lead poisoning do not look or act sick. Children at highest risk may live or spend time in housing built before 1978, or in government-assisted health programs. Children may also be at risk in housing with chipping paint or unsafe repairs and remodeling.
Children at risk of lead poisoning should be tested at ages 1 and 2, or between the ages of 3 and 6, if not tested at ages 1 and 2. Parents who think their child may have been exposed to lead should talk to their doctor about getting a blood lead test.
Some basic ways to prevent childhood lead poisoning include taking off or wiping your shoes before entering your home, washing your children’s hands and toys, often. Also remember to clean any surfaces covered in lead-based paint inside or outside of the home with a wet mop or
wet cloth. Do this often. You should also use lead-safe work practices in buildings built before 1978. Use plastic sheeting on furniture and the ground.
Good nutrition helps children’s bodies resist lead poisoning. Feed children three meals and two healthy snacks each day to help their body resist lead poisoning, including calcium-rich foods like milk, cheese, yogurt, canned salmon, and tofu. Feed your children plenty of iron-rich foods like lean meats, beans, iron fortified cereals and grains, fish, and raisins. Make sure your kids receive vitamin C-rich foods such as fruit, and fruit juice.
Lead is in many workplaces. Ask your employer to tell you if you work with lead. Workplaces where lead is found include places where people work with radiators or batteries, or do soldering or welding. Buildings constructed before 1978 that are being painted or remodeled may expose you to lead. “But what about if I work at an old building that I suspect may have lead paint in it from before 1978? How do I avoid bringing lead home accidentally to my children?” Answer: change into clean clothes and shoes before getting into your car or going home. Bag dirty clothes and shoes. Wash your face and hands with soap and water before leaving work. Take a shower and wash your hair as soon as you get home. It is better to shower at work if you can. Wash work clothes separately from all other clothes. Run the empty washing machine again after the work clothes to rinse the lead out.
For more information, contact The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. You can reach them at 1-800-524-5323 or visit their website http://www.publichealth.lacounty.gov/lead/