Lead exposure can be dangerous for everyone, but it especially concerns small children. This fact alone can be troubling for parents, especially those that live in homes built before 1978. It’ necessary to understand the risks associated with harmful toxins that could be lurking around.
Too much lead exposure can lead to lead poisoning. What exactly is lead poisoning? Well, according to the Mayo Clinic, lead poisoning occurs over months or sometimes even years. Over time it enters the bloodstream and can cause severe developmental or health-related issues. In children, these problems can include behavioral or developmental problems such as:
- Developmental delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Eating things, such as paint chips, that aren’t food (pica)
Health-related problems can include:
- Weight loss
- Sluggishness and fatigue
- Abdominal pain
- Hearing loss
Why Are Children at a Higher Risk for Lead Poisoning?
There are essentially two reasons why children are at a higher risk of lead poisoning than other populations.
So, how do these two factors contribute to the overarching problem? Let’s explore how both physiology and behavior link to elevated lead exposure in children.
According to the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry, children have a higher breathing rate than adults. Therefore, they may breathe in lead-contaminated dust particles at a faster and more often than adults. Children are also shorter. While this may seem like an insignificant detail, it means they are closer to the ground where lead-contaminated soil, dust, or fumes may sit.
The final straw is that lead is absorbed in the gut of children (especially on an empty stomach), 10x greater than adults. This fact is compounded if the child has calcium, iron, zinc, or absorbate deficiencies.
Children simply behave differently than adults. Over time, we develop a keen understanding of germs and avoid touching our mouths, eyes, or face in general. However, children do not — and therefore are at a higher risk for lead exposure than adults.
This issue is even higher for children that exhibit pica, which is a compulsive hand-to-mouth behavior along with eating non-edible items. This isn’t necessarily uncommon in children two years and younger, which leads to a greater risk of lead poisoning.
Where is Lead Found in the Home?
Lead is most commonly found in paint, especially in homes built before 1978. If the paint is intact, there’s not much risk for exposure. However, weathering, damage, or general wear and tear can create a troubling situation. Chipping, peeling, chalking, or cracking from a time over constant movement can create harmful situations for children.
There are, without doubt, trouble areas in or outside of a home, which is far more likely to release lead-contaminated dust. Locations that are susceptible to being moved touched or weather damage should be noted.
- Window frames and sills
- Doors and door frames
The common denominator in all of these problem areas is how frequently they have been moved around, touched, or may come into contact with moisture. Now, add children’s behavior into the mix, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. Children are constantly touching banisters, handrails, and even stairs. Trimming can be a difficult area for crawlers that may be already on the ground. Porches may chip away into the soil where children play. As you can see, deteriorated lead paint can easily be ingested by children unknowingly and fast.
Other Lead Exposure Areas for Children
Lead paint is undoubtedly the prime culprit in children’s lead exposure. Swallowing entire lead chips or dust that have been contaminated by dust are two of the most common ways in which children get lead poisoning. However, lead paint is not the only suspect. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention —there’s an entire list of other sources that could lead to dangerous levels of lead exposure.
- Imported candies
- Imported toys or toy jewelry
- Imported cosmetics
- Pottery and some ceramics
- Drinking water contaminated by lead leaching from lead pipes
- Consumer products like tea kettles and vinyl miniblinds
What to Do If Your Child Experienced Lead Exposure
If for some reason you believe your child may have come into contact with lead, here’s what you should do to reduce problems down the road.
Contact your child’s healthcare provider and determine whether or not blood work is needed. Blood lead tests are the only discernable way to detect high lead levels because many children with elevated blood lead levels exhibit no symptoms. If your child has dangerous levels of lead in their blood, they may be given either chelation therapy or EDTA chelation therapy — depending on their tolerance.
Keep Your Children Safe
To reduce the risk of dangerous lead exposure for your child, you’ll need to take the right steps to mitigate the issue. There are a few different types of preventative and active measures that will keep children safe.
A lead paint inspection can identify lead-contaminated paints during the earliest stages. These inspections should be completed before a home is purchased, renovated, or a lease is signed for a property.
Lead paint inspection certifications ensure that the inspector is well-versed in identifying lead contaminants.
A lead risk assessment is the next step in the identification process. This assessment will carefully examine areas of lead paint exposure such as peeling, chipping, or dust. It’s also an essential step in determining how occupants can live in the home safely.
A lead paint assessor certification is necessary for contractors that wish to assess and report the results of lead contaminants properly.
A lead abatement job is much different than a renovation, repair, or painting work (RRP). Abatement refers to the actual removal of lead paint from a residence. Specialized abatement workers are trained differently than RRP contractors.
A lead abatement certification allows individuals the knowledge and right to work on and supervise lead abatement jobs.