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NEWSLETTER

How to protect yourself and your family from lead poisoning

Lead was a prevalent component of American life for much of the twentieth century. Paints, plumbing fixtures, water pipelines, and a variety of consumer goods all contained it. To boost engine performance, automobiles guzzled leaded gasoline. Meanwhile, the medical community became increasingly aware of lead's toxicity, particularly in youngsters. Since the 1970s, strict laws have reduced lead exposure in our homes, products, and surroundings.
 
Unfortunately, the lead poisoning crisis is not yet over. According to recent research published in JAMA Pediatrics, more than half of children tested across the US have measurable amounts of lead in their blood. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently cut the blood lead reference value, which is used to figure out who is most at risk, because of ongoing concerns.

Here's what you need to know about the new standards, as well as the origins and risks of lead poisoning, and how to protect yourself and your family.

 

How did I come into contact with the lead?

Despite the fact that consumer usage was outlawed by the federal government in 1978, lead-based paint is still the most common source of lead poisoning. Peeling, cracking, or otherwise decaying lead paint, as well as dust generated by regularly touched surfaces such as doors, windows, and stairwells can be harmful in homes built before 1978. This exposure is most typically caused by normal hand-to-mouth behaviour in a lead-contaminated environment. Because of differences in how they interact with their environment, young children are more likely to have elevated blood lead levels. Children with an iron deficiency absorb more lead from their gastrointestinal tracts than children who do not have an iron deficiency.


Other probable sources include

 
Lead can enter the water supply as a result of corrosion of lead-based pipes and fixtures. Working with lead in the workplace, such as in manufacturing, construction, and mining can lead to lead contamination of hands and clothing.
 
Toys, jewelry, and cosmetics, especially antiques and those from other countries, may have lead in them.
 
Importantly, the toll of lead poisoning is not the same for everyone. In comparison to the national average, black, low-income, and immigrant communities are more likely to have increased lead levels.


What are the health implications?

 
There is no such thing as a safe amount of lead in the body. Because their bodies are rapidly growing and developing, children under the age of six are the most vulnerable. Although symptoms may not appear right away, even low levels of lead can harm the brain and nervous system. Learning, hearing, attention, and conduct can all be affected in the long run.
 
Lead can be released from the bones and cross the placenta in pregnant women who have been exposed. This can have an effect on the neurological system and the growth of the fetus. There's also a chance of miscarriage or preterm delivery.

What do the new CDC guidelines imply?

 
The highest 2.5 per cent of blood lead concentrations in children aged 1 to 5 are represented by the blood lead reference value. Lead concentrations above the standard threshold may necessitate further inquiry or testing. The CDC stated in October 2021 that the blood lead reference value would be decreased from 5 to 3.5 micrograms per deciliter, the first reduction in nearly a decade. Lowering the value indicates that more children will be identified as having been exposed to the potentially detrimental consequences of lead. It also allows public health and environmental officials to focus lead reduction efforts on the highest-risk communities.
 
 
 

What should I do if my child has been exposed to lead?

 
Depending on how high the blood lead level is, children who have been exposed to lead may require additional testing. Your doctor may advise a more thorough examination of probable sources of lead in your house and environment, as well as more tests and dietary counselling to optimize calcium and iron intake. When blood lead levels are very high in children, they may need treatment to get rid of the lead from their bodies.
 
Additional options for families at risk of lead poisoning include local health departments, programs to keep kids from getting lead poisoning, and units that specialize in pediatric environmental health.


When is it appropriate for my child to be tested?

 
If a child lives in a high-risk community, the Massachusetts Department of Health recommends that all children be tested for lead at 9 to 12 months, 2 years, 3 years, and 4 years (as defined by the local department of health). If a sibling has an increased blood lead level, children with persistent oral exploratory habits, unexplained anaemia, and other risk factors, blood lead testing may be recommended.


What can I do to make my house lead-free?

 
Lead poisoning is common in our environment, and removing it is expensive. Renovations, if not done properly, can increase pediatric lead exposure by generating lead-laden dust. A qualified lead inspector should assess a family's house if they are concerned about lead exposure. Based on these findings, lead-hazard remediation work should be performed by a lead-certified contractor or by individuals who have been trained to do so.
 
Temporary mitigating techniques can help limit lead exposure in the meantime. These include hand washing on a regular basis, dusting and wet mopping the house several times per week, leaving shoes at the door, and eating an iron- and calcium-rich diet.


In conclusion,

 
While lead poisoning has been less common in recent years, it remains a serious public health concern. Routine testing for your child, as well as measures to reduce lead hazards and prevent long-term health effects, should be discussed with your paediatrician. More funding is required to help families and property owners manage lead-based paint and other risks in their homes. These approaches, combined with the efforts of the public health and medical communities, can help put an end to the lead poisoning crisis.
 
 


Disclaimer:

No content on this site, regardless of date, should be used to replace direct medical advice from your doctor or another trained practitioner.
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