Lead is a poisonous metal that our bodies cannot use. Lead poisoning can cause learning, hearing, and behavioral problems, and can harm your child’s brain, kidneys, and other organs.
Lead in the body stops good minerals such as iron and calcium from working right. Some of these effects may be permanent.
Children with lead poisoning usually do not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is by getting a blood test. Ask your doctor or health care provider to test your child under six years of age at least once a year.
Main Sources of Lead
Lead-based paint is a hazard if it is peeling, chipping, chalking, or cracking. Even lead-based paint that appears to be undisturbed can be a problem if it is on surfaces that children chew or that get a lot of wear and tear. The older your home is, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint.
Contaminated dust forms when lead paint is dry-scraped or sanded. Dust can also become contaminated when painted surfaces bump or rub together. Lead chips and dust can gather on surfaces and objects that people touch or that children put into their mouths.
Contaminated soil occurs when exterior lead-based paint from houses, buildings, or other structures flakes or peels and gets into the soil. Soil near roadways may also be contaminated from past use of leaded gasoline in cars. Avoid these areas when planting vegetable gardens.
Other sources of lead:
- Contaminated drinking water from older plumbing fixtures
- Lead-based painted toys and household furniture
- Imported lead-glazed pottery and leaded crystal
- Lead smelters
- Folk remedies like azarcon and pay-loo-ah
- Cosmetics, like kohl and kajal
The Importance of Iron, Calcium, and Vitamin-C
Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with food in their stomachs. Provide your child with four to six small meals during the day. The following nutrients can help protect your child from lead poisoning:
Foods with Iron: Normal levels of iron work to protect the body from the harmful effects of lead. Good sources of dietary iron include:
• Lean red meats, fish, and chicken
• Iron-fortified cereals
• Dried fruits (raisins, prunes)
Foods with Calcium: Calcium reduces lead absorption and also helps make teeth and bones strong. Good sources of dietary calcium include:
• Green leafy vegetables (spinach,
• kale, collard greens)
Foods with Vitamin C: Foods with vitamin C and iron work together to reduce lead absorption. Good sources of vitamin C include:
• Oranges, orange juice
• Grapefruits, grapefruit juice
• Tomatoes, tomato juice
• Green peppers
Simple Steps You Can Take to Protect Your Family from Lead Hazards
• Get your children tested for lead, even if they seem healthy.
• Make sure your children eat healthy, low-fat foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C.
• Always wash your hands before eating.
• Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys.
• Run water for 30 seconds to 2 minutes before drinking, especially if you have not used your water for a few hours.
• Use only cold water for making your baby’s formula, drinking, and cooking.
• Do not use imported pottery to store or serve food.
• Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces using wet methods that control dust.
• Wipe or remove shoes before entering your house.
• Get your home tested for lead by a lead-safe certified professional if it was built before 1978.
• If you rent, it is your landlord’s job to keep paint in good shape. Report peeling or chipping paint to your landlord and call your health department if the paint is not repaired safely.
• Take precautions to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating.
• Don’t try to remove paint yourself!