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Why is lead important?

Lead is a heavy metal that is toxic for children because it interferes with the development of their brains and nervous systems. Lead exposure can cause cognitive impairments, learning disabilities, behavioral issues, and reduced IQ. Children's bodies absorb lead more easily than adults, and their developing organs and systems are more vulnerable to its harmful effects. Long-term exposure can also result in health problems such as anemia, kidney damage, and hearing loss. Children are most likely to encounter lead through contaminated soil, dust, paint, foreign spices, and water, so preventing exposure is crucial for their health and development.

How do I reduce my child’s risk of lead exposure?

There are several steps you can take to protect your child.

  • Avoid Products at Risk for Lead Contamination: Avoid imported spices, such as turmeric. Do not let babies chew on imported toys or jewelry. Do not cook with imported pottery. Check for recalls and safety information.
  • Healthy Diet: Provide a diet rich in calcium, iron, and vitamin C to help reduce lead absorption in your child’s body.
  • Hygiene: Wash your child’s hands before meals and after playing outside. Also, wash toys and pacifiers regularly.
  • Keep Your Home Clean: Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces to reduce lead dust. Use wet mopping and damp cloths to avoid spreading dust. Consider removing shoes before entering your house.
  • Maintain Paint: Keep painted surfaces in good condition to prevent chipping and peeling. Promptly repair any deteriorating paint.
  • Check Soil: If you have a garden, test the soil for lead, especially if your home is near a highway or industrial area. Use clean soil for gardening and cover bare soil to prevent contact.
  • Test Drinking Water: We are fortunate that most of the public water systems in our area are low risk, but if you live in an old home or get water from a well, you may need to test. Contact your local water supplier to test your water for lead. The EPA offers additional resources Protect Your Tap: A Quick Check for Lead, or contact the State Drinking Water Officer or the EPA Safe Drinking Water hotline (800) 426-4791 for help. Flushing pipes and using cold tap water for drinking and cooking further reduces your risk if you live in an area with old plumbing. Consider using a water filter certified to remove lead.
  • Test Your Home for Lead: If you live in a home built before 1978, it might contain lead-based paint. Hire a certified professional to test your home for lead paint and dust.
  • Professional Lead Removal: If lead is detected in your home, hire certified professionals to remove or contain it safely. Do not attempt to remove lead paint yourself.

Should I be concerned about potential lead exposure from tampons in my adolescent?

Recently, a study found toxic metals, including lead, in tampons sold in the US, UK, and EU. This is the first study of its kind, so it’s not yet known if there’s a direct risk of lead exposure from tampon use. Additionally, the ability of the body to absorb any lead that may be present in tampons has not yet been studied. If you are concerned, we recommend your adolescent uses other period protection options including pads, period-proof underwear, and menstrual cups. At this time, it is not recommended to have lead blood levels tested in teens who have used tampons.

When should I schedule an appointment to have my child’s blood level tested?

If you have any of the following high-risk factors:

  • Live in a house built before 1950 (and never remodeled)
  • Live in a house built before 1978 with recent or ongoing renovations
  • Are from a low-income family
  • Have a sibling or frequent playmate with elevated blood lead level
  • Are a recent immigrant, refugee, foreign adoptee, or child in foster care
  • Have a parent/caregiver who works professionally or recreationally with lead
  • Use traditional, folk, or ethnic remedies, candies, or cosmetics (such as Greta, Azarcon, Ghasard, Ba-baw-san, Sindoor or Kohl)

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