Lead exposure can lead to illness in children

LOS ANGELES - In observance of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, state and federal health agencies are encouraging residents to check out their homes for sources of lead exposure that can lead to health problems for their children.This year's theme, "Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future," underscores the important of learning how to prevent lead poisoning's serious health effects on children. "In 2009, 671 children in Los Angeles County had seriously elevated blood-lead levels, which is entirely preventable," said Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, director of public health for Los Angeles County. "Lead can seriously affect a child's brain and nervous system and may cause learning and behavioral problems." A blood test is the only way to identify and confirm elevated lead levels in children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 250,000 children in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health. The main cause of lead poisoning in Los Angeles County children is exposure to peeling lead-based paint. Lead-based paint is commonly found in houses, apartments and buildings built before 1978. Dust from the deteriorating paint can settle on toys, windowsills and floors, and children can swallow this dust or paint chips. Other sources of lead exposure could be: Ground soil that has been contaminated by lead paint, lead dust or leaded gasoline; Lead dust that comes into the home on work clothes or work boots; Folk or traditional remedies, such as Azarcon and Greta; Various imported goods, such as toys, candy, ceramics and children's jewelry; Hobbies using items that contain lead, such as soldering, making stained glass and handling bullets or fishing sinkers. "If you have young children and are concerned that your home may have lead-based paint or other sources of lead exposure, get the facts," Fielding said. "Public Health can provide information on sources of lead poisoning and, if necessary, referrals to certified lead inspectors through the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Hotline at (800) LA-4-LEAD." Parents who are concerned about their children's exposure to lead are urged to ask their child's doctor about lead testing. Parents who do not have a doctor for their child can also call the hotline for referrals to free and low-cost health services for children and teens.

********** Published: October 28, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 28