Lead Poisoning: Prevention
Lead poisoning can slowly and silently damage the brain without giving any other symptoms. Low levels of lead exposure can cause lowered IQ scores, decreased attention span, decreased hearing, and speech and other developmental delays. The brain is most sensitive to lead exposure during the first 6 years of life.
The most common source of lead during childhood is lead-based paint. Lead was finally banned from house paint in 1978. When paint chips or peels, young children can pick up and chew on some of these particles. More commonly, children swallow dust and soil contaminated with lead paint that has chalked off as it ages. Because toddlers commonly put their hands in their mouth and explore their environment by tasting things, they are at special risk for lead poisoning.
The following are some tips for preventing lead exposure:
- First: Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint. Pay special attention to window sills.
- Second: Rinse your child's hands and face before he or she eats. Rinse toys and pacifiers frequently. If your child is a thumb sucker, rinse his hands frequently.
- Third: Close off rooms that are being remodeled. If you have a home built before 1978, repaint it.
- Fourth: When using water for cooking or formula preparation, use only water from the cold water tap. If the water hasn't been used for several hours, allow it to run for 2 minutes before using. The reason for this is that until 1986, lead-based solder was sometimes used in plumbing and lead dissolves more in warm water or standing water. Fresh cold water is safe.
- Finally: Make sure that your child isn't being exposed to lead through contact with adults who have occupations or hobbies that involve lead. Examples are making stained glass or pottery, working with storage batteries or in mining.
If you have other questions about lead poisoning, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.