Childhood Lead Poison Prevention

The Shiawassee County Health Department screens, identifies and refers children with lead poisoning to their medical provider for treatment. Public health nurses provide follow-up for children with high lead levels in cooperation with medical providers.  We also perform blood lead screenings for adults upon request. 
 
For more information, please see Lead Levels in Children FAQ.
 
What is the problem?
 
Approximately 310,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood, the level at which Center for Disease Control recommends public health actions be initiated.
Lead poisoning can affect nearly every system in the body. Because lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes unrecognized. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.
 
How are children exposed to lead?
 
The major source of lead exposure among U.S. children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in deteriorating buildings. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. However, approximately 24 million housing units in the United States have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.
Other sources of lead poisoning are related to:
    • hobbies (making stained-glass windows)
    • work (recycling or making automobile batteries)
    • drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, valves can all leach lead)
    • home health remedies (azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion; pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash or fever).
 
Who is at risk?
    • Children under the age of 6 years because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths.
    • Children from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning, although children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are at greatest risk.
 
Can lead poisoning be prevented?
 
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.
    • Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be removed
    • Public and health care professionals need to be educated about lead poisoning and how to prevent it
    • Children who are at risk of lead poisoning need to be tested, and, if necessary, treated.
 
What can the public and parents do to reduce blood lead levels?
    • Ask a doctor to test your child if you are concerned about your child being exposed to lead.
    • Damp-mop floors, furniture and window sills every week.
    • Keep children away from peeling paint and window sills.
    • Frequently wash your child’s hands, pacifiers, and toys to reduce exposure to lead.
    • Fix healthy meals high in iron and calcium. Cook liver, beef or lean meats, spinach, greens, dried beans and vegetables. Serve raisins, peanuts, cheese, yogurt or ice cream for snacks or dessert. Top them off with milk or real fruit juices to drink. 
    • Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and for making baby formula. Hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead, and most of the lead in household water usually comes from the plumbing in your house, not from the local water supply.
    • Avoid using home remedies (such as azarcon, greta, pay-loo-ah) and cosmetics (such as kohl, alkohl) that contain lead.
    • Take basic steps to decrease your exposure to lead (for example, by showering and changing clothes after finishing the task) if you remodel buildings built before 1978 or if your work or hobbies involve working with lead-based products.
 
Remember, most children with lead poisoning do not look sick. The only way to know for sure is to have them tested. All children under six years, should be tested once a year. It is important to prevent and treat lead poisoning because it can do permanent harm. It can cause brain damage, hearing and speaking problems, learning problems and lower I.Q. It can cause behavior problems, shortened attention span and hyperactivity. Lead poisoning can even cause death. Your child's doctor, family health center, or a clinic can do a simple blood test. You can get the results in about two weeks.