Protecting Our Children From Exposure to Lead

By Lina Younes

During my youngest daughter’s yearly check up, the nurse asked the traditional lead screening questions regarding possible exposures to lead. “Does my child live in or regularly visit a home, child care or building built before 1950?” “Does my child live or regularly visit a home or child care built before 1978?” “Does my child spend time with anyone that has a job or hobby where they may work with lead?” and several more. Luckily, I was able to answer “no” to all the lead screening questions. However, the questions highlighted the fact that there are multiple possibilities of exposure in addition to lead-based paint.

Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the United States. Exposure to this toxic metal can harm young children and babies even before they are born. Exposure to high levels of lead can damage the developing brain and nervous system of young children, plus cause serious behavior and learning problems. For years, the main source of lead exposure has been lead-based paint or dust particles from lead-based paint. Although the federal government banned the use of lead in paint in 1978, many homes built before the ban may still have remnants of lead-based paint.

What are some of the other sources of lead? Well, pottery and ceramics made in other countries may have lead. Some folk remedies like greta and azarcón which may be used to treat stomach ailments may also have lead. Furthermore, we’ve also heard of other problems with lead in some imported toys and children’s jewelry.

So, what do you do if you think your child might have been exposed to this toxic metal? Does your child show behavioral problems or developmental problems? The first step to allay your concerns will be to have your child tested for possible lead poisoning. A simple blood test will indicate the course to follow.

During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week help us to spread the word so we all can protect our children.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and chairs EPA’s Multilingual Communications Task Force. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

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