Lead Poisoning in Children

What Parents Need to Know

lead poisoning - what parents need to know

At Champions, we value continuing to educate our staff and the community about ways to keep children safe. Last week, we invited Jorge Flores, Epidemiologist and Program Manager of the Lead Prevention Program at the Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County, to speak at our all staff meeting about the dangers of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, often over months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems. Children younger than 6 years old are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.

Flores explained that there are many opportunities for children to be exposed to lead. Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings are common sources of lead poisoning in children. Did you know that lead can also be in contaminated air, water and soil? Adults who work with batteries, do home renovations, work in auto repair shops, or even some hobbies like making pottery or stained glass also might lead to lead exposure.

4 Ways to Keep Your Family Safe from Lead Poisoning

1. Test your home for lead.

In the United States, lead is in paint in 87% of homes built before 1940, 69% of homes built from 1940–1959, and 24% of homes built from 1960–1977. If your home was built before 1940 up until 1977, contact your local health department and ask them to conduct a lead test.

2. Be aware of old homes your child visits.

Avoid allowing your child to come in contact with old windows, old porches, and areas with chipping or peeling paint. These items could contain lead.

3. Sanitation is important.

Be sure your child washes their hands frequently. Cleaning your home regularly, especially the floors and other level surfaces, is important to ensure that no outside lead contaminants are in your home. 

4. Eat healthy.

Some baby foods, candy and seasonings like Turmeric can contain detectable levels of lead.

Signs of lead poisoning

Unfortunately, there are no immediate telling signs of lead exposure. Children can be exposed to lead and look and appear completely normal. The best thing you can do as a parent is to prevent the exposure before it happens. If you think your child has been exposed to lead, contact your pediatrician. Medicaid eligible children are required to be tested at 12 and 24 months of age and between 36 and 72 months if not previously tested. Lead testing is not part of a routine pediatric check-up. Parents should ask their provider to test their child’s blood for lead if they have concerns.

For more information about lead exposure, visit the Florida Department of Health or the American Academy of Pediatrics website.