-Charu Dutt Arora, MD

Lead is a poison. No level of lead in the human body is known to be safe. The reason behind me discussing this issue is because of the fact that a lot of parents purchasing an older home or renovating an old house do not consider the harmful effects of this deadly toxin.

Exposure to lead has various kinds of effects, ranging from irritability to brain damage and death, depending on the level of exposure and blood levels.Lead poisoning can affect anyone, but children in particular, are more vulnerable since their nervous systems are in the developing stage which is more sensitive to the harmful effects of the metal. With data from the CDC in the United States, one in every six children has levels of lead in their blood which is considered toxic and harmful.

But the real question is : Where is this Lead coming from?
The answer to that is that lead is a metal which has been mined for thousands of years. In the past, it was used to make common household items such as paint, water pipes, gasoline and food cans. But with the guidelines by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the usage of lead in paint and water pipes has gone down significantly after the year 1978. Also, lead does not break down over time. Hence, it is imperative to know the health hazards of lead and keep your family safe.You should make sure that your home is free of lead-based paint and the lead level in your drinking is acceptably low.

How does Lead enter my child’s body?
Lead enters our body through the mouth or nose. It does not get absorbed through the skin. A child does not have to eat paint chips in order to get lead poisoning. It is more common by inhaling the lead dust.

So, What are the Dangers of Lead exposure?
Lead is an invisible poison and it interferes with the basic functions of the human body is unable to differentiate between lead and calcium (a mineral which is important for bone strengthening).Like calcium, lead enters the bloodstream and gets absorbed by the bones where it is collected for years. Children, younger than 6 years of age are typically susceptible to lead poisoning in view of their rapidly developing brains and bones and their usual habit of putting random things in their mouth.
Some of the harmful effects of lead are as follows:

-Difficulty paying attention, irritability, anxiety and hyperactivity can result from even consuming small amounts of lead.
-Delayed growth, learning difficulties, reading issues and hearing loss can be due to increased exposure to lead.
-Toxic levels of lead can cause unconsciousness, seizures, permanent brain damage and kidney failure.
-Parents exposed to lead have difficulty carrying healthy babies.

How can I protect my children from Lead poisoning?
-By performing, simple and basic everyday tasks, one can reduce their child’s exposure to lead. Keeping your house and it’s surrounding clean is one of the most important ways of protecting your children.

-Make sure your children do not have access to peeling paints, and do not chew on painted surfaces such as cribs, playpens or window panes.

-Replacing brass faucets:Some water faucets, especially in Asia contain brass, which is an alloy of lead and copper. Hot water may cause the lead to be extracted from the alloy and add it to the water making it unfit for consumption. Make sure you replace the brass faucets with stainless steel.

-Check the ceramics:The Food and Drug administration (FDA) prohibits the use lead based paint in the manufacture of food containers and ceramics (mugs, etc.)

-Many studies across the globe have proved that children who eat regular and balanced foods are less likely to get lead poisoning. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, iron and calcium is always encouraged for children.

-Make sure you get your family, especially children tested for lead. It is the only way of detecting lead poisoning.

Ask your doctor about screening your child for lead exposure, especially if your home was built before 1975. Screening for lead can be performed by testing your child’s blood at the local physician or public health office.
Early detection, identification and treatment of lead exposure can reduce significantly the chances of permanent neurodevelopmental damage to your child. Lead poisoning is treated by removing all sources of exposure and a medication which extracts the lead from the body.

Stay Healthy! Stay Happy!