Johnny Morgan, Reichel, Claudette Hanks | 11/4/2009 3:12:41 AM
Lead poisoning is a disease caused by swallowing or breathing anything that has lead in it. Even tiny amounts of lead can harm a child in many ways.
Lead poisoning can have devastating effects on a child, according to Dr. Claudette Reichel, LSU AgCenter housing specialist.
“Some of the problems lead poisoning causes in kids are slow growth, lower IQ scores, behavior problems, brain damage and damage to the nervous system and other organs,” Reichel said.
Young children are most at risk because they absorb lead more easily. They also put their hands and everything else in their mouths, and lead in a pregnant woman can harm her unborn child, she said.
Lead paint is the No. 1 source of lead poisoning. Some homes, toys and furniture made before 1980 could have lead. Most homes built before 1960 have lead paint.
Reichel said the paint can peel and make dust, and both the paint chips and dust are dangerous. Removing the paint creates lead dust, which gets in the air we breathe.
Even the dirt and dust can be a cause of concern because it can be contaminated by exterior paint, some insect poisons, roads and some industries.
“Water can also be a source of lead poisoning because some plumbing contains lead pipe,” she said. “And you should keep in mind that hot water dissolves more lead than cold water.”
Reichel said the Centers for Disease Control recommends blood-lead tests for children between the ages of six months and six years old. The higher a child’s risk, the earlier and more often the test should be done.
She said don’t wait for symptoms because there usually are no signs of poisoning. “Also, the lower the level of lead in the child’s system, the easier the treatment,” she said.
Reichel said many things can be done in addition to keeping children away from peeling paint to prevent lead poisoning.
“Mop floors often with high-phosphate cleaning solutions such as dishwasher detergent. Wash toys and pacifiers often, and wash children’s hands and faces before they eat,” she said.
Reichel advises parents never to use water from the hot-water faucet for drinking or cooking. Use cold water after letting it run for one minute each morning.
People who work with lead should shower and change before going home, and their clothes should be washed separately.
It is not a good idea for homeowners to strip old paint themselves. Removing lead paint from homes is very dangerous.
“Keep children and pregnant women away from remodeling work. Don’t sweep, vacuum or stir up lead dust,” the housing expert said.
Before tackling a lead remediation job, get advice from the health department or the local LSU AgCenter office, Reichel added.