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How lead affects your child's health

The long term affects of lead in a child can be severe. They include learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing, and even brain damage. If caught early, these effects can be limited by reducing exposure to lead or by medical attention. If you are pregnant, avoid exposing yourself to lead. Lead can pass through your body to your baby. The good news is that there are simple things you can do to help protect your family.

Facts you should know

  • Children with too much lead in their bodies may not look or feel sick. A simple blood test is the only way to know if your child is being exposed to lead. Ask your doctor or health care provider to test your child for lead.
  • Lead-based paint that is in good condition is not an immediate problem. However, it may be a risk in the future if it begins to crack and/or flake.
  • Laws have been passed to ban lead in household paint, gasoline and water pipes. However, older homes may still have lead in them. Finding out if there is lead in your home is the first step in protecting your child's health.
  • Young children should be tested for lead, especially if you live in an older home, if your home has been remodeled, or if a relative or playmate has tested high for lead. Ask your doctor to test your children beginning at six months of age, and then every year until age six. You should encourage your neighbors to have their children tested as well.

What can you do about lead?

If you suspect that your house has lead hazards, you can take some immediate steps to reduce your family's risk:

  • Clean up paint chips immediately.
  • Clean floors, window frames, window sills, and other surfaces with warm soapy water.
  • Throughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning dirty or dusty areas.
  • Use only cold water for drinking and cooking. Older pipes may contain lead and lead is more likely to leach into hot water.
  • Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat and before nap time and bed time.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys, and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing window sills or other painted surfaces.
  • If you live in an older home, clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil. Lead can set into soil when exterior lead-based paint flakes off into the soil.
  • Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat meals high in iron and calcium. Children that eat enough of these foods in their diets absorb less lead.
    Foods high in iron include:
    • eggs
    • red meat
    • beans
    • peas
    • spinach
    Foods high in calcium include dairy products such as:
    • milk
    • cheese
    • yogurt
  • Do not use foreign-made vinyl miniblinds; they may contain large amounts of lead.
  • If you are exposed to lead at your job, change your clothes and shoes before coming home.

Don't remove lead-based paint yourself!

Families have been poisoned by scraping or sanding lead paint because these activities generate large amounts of lead dust. Lead dust from repairs or renovations of older buildings can remain in the building long after work is completed. Heating lead paint may release lead into the air. The best alternative is to hire a contractor who is trained in removing lead-based paint from your home. You may also call (888) LEAD-LIST for a list of lead service providers in your area.

About 1 in 11 children in America have high levels of lead in their blood, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Find an Expert

107 Duncan Hall
Auburn University AL 36849
Telephone:  (334) 844-7007
FAX:  (334) 844-2236
Dolores Tiner
Executive Support Assistant

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