Public Health

Avoiding Lead poisoning

Lead poisoning, perhaps surprisingly, is still a major problem in the U.S. Lead poisoning in the water supply in Flint, Michigan is grabbing all the headlines, but other sources of lead poisoning are also problematic.
John Oliver has even dedicated an entire show to the problem of lead poisoning in the U.S.

How do you avoid lead poisoning for your children? First, check out the CDC’s lead poisoning website. Also, follow Harvard’s recommendations to parents for avoiding lead poisoning:

  • If your home was built before 1978, make sure you know if it has any lead paint. If you aren’t sure, get it inspected.
  • If you are going to have lead removed, or do renovations in an older house that may have lead paint under layers of other paint or wallpaper, make sure that the work is done by people who are certified in lead removal. For more information about this, check out the EPA’s web page.
  • Ask questions about the possibility of lead in your tap water. Lead can leach into the water from old pipes in your house, as well as pipes leading to your house. In Flint, the problem was that the city’s supply was changed to a river that had very corrosive water, and this water made lead leach into the water. (Sadly, even though they’ve changed the water supply, the damage done to the pipes is causing lead to still get into the water.) If you aren’t able to get good answers, or if you just aren’t sure, get your water tested. If you have well water, it should be tested when the well is first built and again if a pregnant woman or child younger than 18 moves in.
  • Be mindful of possible exposure from household objects, usually ones made in other countries. The Consumer Products Safety Commission has information about recalls, as well as about products that may contain lead.
  • Get your child tested for lead. Every child should be tested at least at ages 1 and 2, and again at 3 and 4 in areas with older housing stock. However, your doctor can do a simple blood test (preferably not a finger stick) to check at any time if there is a concern about a possible exposure. While no level of lead is normal or fine, a level of 5 or higher is considered dangerous.

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