(10/24/18) BATON ROUGE, La. — You likely know that lead is toxic, especially in young children. Even tiny amounts can irreversibly damage a young child’s developing brain and other vital organs and can cause lifelong learning and behavior problems. And long-term lead exposure can be a factor in developing high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney disease and reduced fertility in adults.
“The good news,” said LSU AgCenter housing specialist Claudette Reichel, “is that lead poisoning is preventable when you know the facts and what you can do to protect your children and yourself.”
The AgCenter along with the Louisiana Department of Health and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is promoting national Lead Poisoning Prevention Week by urging three key actions — get the facts; get your home tested; get your child tested.
Get the facts
Lead, specifically lead dust, can leave harmful residue in paint, soil, water and even air. It is toxic and is especially dangerous for babies and young children. Lead is hazardous for anyone, but children are at higher risk for lead poisoning because their developing bodies absorb lead much more quickly, and they often put things in their mouths.
There is no “safe” level of lead in the blood, and unfortunately, many children come into contact with lead in their homes, Reichel said. Lead-based paint is the No. 1 source of lead poisoning in children under the age of 6.
Get your home tested
Most homes built before 1978 at some point have contained lead-based paint. The older the home, the greater the likelihood and level of lead in paint, Reichel said.
Lead exposure is most often caused by swallowing or breathing in the lead dust created by old paint that has chipped or eroded into dust or has been disturbed during home remodeling or repairs.
Lead can be found inside and outside the home, including in the water that travels through lead pipes or in the soil around a house.
Other possible sources of lead include some metal toys or toys painted with lead-based paint, furniture painted with lead-based paint, some metal-containing jewelry and lead-glazed pottery or porcelain.
“If your home was built before 1978, it’s wise to hire a certified lead inspector or risk assessor to check your home for lead hazards. Home test kits are less reliable,” Reichel said.
If you plan to make home repairs or renovations, hire only Lead-safe Certified firms listed on the website www.epa.gov/lead. If you plan to do the work yourself, learn more about lead safe work practices on that website, she said.
Get your child tested
“Ask your doctor or health clinic to test your young children for lead, even if they seem healthy,” Reichel said. There are no visible symptoms of lead poisoning unless the level is extremely high, but a simple blood test can detect it.
Louisiana requires healthcare providers to make sure that every child between 6 months and 6 years old has a blood test for lead. Children covered by Medicaid are eligible for free testing, and private health insurance plans usually pay for a lead test, she said.
Learn more and see a Louisiana lead prevention video at www.dhh.louisiana.gov/lead. Also visit www.lsuagcenter.com/LaHouse for other useful information about ways to create a healthy, durable, efficient and hazard-resistant home.