What is Lead?
Lead is a heavy, toxic metal that can be harmful to people’s health, especially at high levels. It was once used in paint, water pipes, gasoline, and many other household products but U.S. laws have changed so children are not exposed as much as they used to be. Unfortunately, children who live in old housing units can still be exposed through water and chipping paint.
What is Lead exposure?
Lead exposure is a build-up of lead in the body overtime. It can lead to negative effects on a person’s health such as reduced IQ, poor growth and decreased appetite. In rare cases children can become incredibly sick, requiring hospitalization.
How is lead exposure measured?
A blood test can be used to see if an individual has been exposed to lead. A lead level of 5 or higher is concerning, but no level of lead in the blood is safe. This test is done routinely at 9 months and 2 years of age. This test is also done on new patients under the age of 5.
What are the symptoms?
- Sometimes no symptoms are present
- Learning problems
- Weakness and little energy
- Not eating a lot
- Behavior problems
- Stomach pain
- Vomiting or Nausea
- Metallic taste in mouth
- Joint/muscle weakness and pain
Who is at risk?
- Children– Babies and infants crawl and tend to touch and put everything in their mouth, including lead dust and paint. Since children are growing, their bodies absorb more lead. Children’s nervous systems and brains are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Children that live in houses that were built before 1978 are at higher risk. This is due to the lead paint and old plumbing that is still in the homes.
- Pregnant women-can be exposed from eating/drinking foods that contain lead or from materials that have lead. Pregnant women are also at risk for lead exposure if they live or work in a place with lead exposure. A mother with lead exposure can expose her developing baby to lead exposure
- Adults-workplace exposures and homes can increase the risk of lead exposure
- Workplaces such as:
- Auto repair
- Construction workers
How can I be exposed to lead?
- Homes built before 1978 Paint
- Contaminated soil
- Water that comes from lead pipes
- Traditional folk medicines such as Greta and Azarcon, Ghasard, and Ba-baw-san
- Toys containing lead paint or metal parts
What is the treatment?
- Reduce lead exposure
- Increase Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin C in the diet
- Severe cases- Medication with possible hospitalization
What are the effects?
- Increased risk of developmental effects
- Negative effect on brain and nervous system
- Behavior and learning problems
- Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
- Slowed growth
- Hearing Problems
- Decreased bone and muscle growth
- Poor muscle coordination
- Speech and language problems
- Seizures and unconsciousness (in cases of extremely high lead levels)
How can I protect my family from lead exposure?
- Eat foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C that’s low fat. Lead is absorbed faster on an empty stomach so encourage snacking on healthy, low-fat snacks
- Orange juice
- Vegetables: broccoli, peppers, spinach
- String cheese
- Fruit: oranges, papayas, berries
- Wipe down window sills and floors with a wet cloth or mop to decrease lead dust
- Keep children away from peeling or chipping paint
- Speak to landlord about peeling or chipping paint, to remove it safely
- Wash children’s hands and toys often
- Be aware of old plumbing pipes that may contain lead