Can lead affect my child?

Recently, a paediatrician wrote a reply to a query about the significance of lead to a child’s health.  In brief, the response was that protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health.  Even low levels of lead in the blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.

The most important step that parents, pediatricians and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. Here are some simple steps to reduce lead exposure in your home:

  • Talk to your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead if you live in a home built before 1978.
  • Make sure children are removed from areas of home renovation activities until the area is completed. Common home renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint. These can be harmful to adults and children.
  • Renovation activities should be performed by certified renovators who are trained to follow lead-safe work practices.
  • If you see paint chips or dust in windowsills or on floors because of peeling paint, clean these areas regularly with a wet mop.
  • Wipe your feet on mats before entering the home, especially if you work in occupations where lead is used. Removing your shoes when you are entering the home is a good practice to control lead. 
  • Your pediatrician can screen your child for lead exposure risk factors. Based on risk factors identified, they may recommend a blood test to measure the level of lead in your child’s blood. Usually, there are no obvious signs or symptoms if a child is exposed to lead. A blood test is an easy way to find out.

Until 2012, children were identified as having a blood lead level of concern if the test result was 10 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood. Prior to 2012, the blood lead test results for children with levels below 10 may or may not have been reported to parents.

Experts now know that there is no safe lead level. The current reference level set by the Centre of Disease Control in the US is 3.5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood for children.

What has not changed is the need to find the source of lead in children with all elevated blood lead levels so that the exposure can be stopped. Parents should talk with their pediatrician about possible sources that could lead to high blood lead levels.


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