Why Should I Be Concerned About Lead?
Childhood lead poisoning is a major health problem in the United States. One out of every 40 American children has too much lead in their bodies.
Eighty percent of US homes built prior to 1978 contain lead-based paint, the most common cause of lead poisoning in children. Lead-poisoned children can suffer brain damage, hearing problems, slowed growth and have behavioral or learning problems. Lead poisoning can even lead to death in some cases. Because lead poisoning frequently has no obvious symptoms, it can go unrecognized for years, resulting in permanent damage. Adults and pets can also be affected.Where Does Lead Come From?
Lead was used in paint, water pipes, gasoline, pottery, and other places. Laws have been passed to ban or reduce the use of lead. However, many older homes still have lead in them. The paint on your walls and window sills may have lead in it. Household dust (from old, worn paint) may have lead in it. Paint that is in good shape is not an immediate problem, however it may be a risk in the future. Your drinking water may have lead in it from your water pipes or the solder that joins pipes together. Even the soil outside your home may contain lead. Finding out if lead is a problem in your home is the first step in protecting your children’s health. There are tests that will let you know and they don’t cost a lot.
How Can Lead Poison Your Child?
There are many ways. Young children put their hands and everything else in their mouths. In doing so, they may eat the dust or chips of lead-based paint without knowing it. Even bits of paint too small to see can come off windows, doors, and walls, creating lead dust. Children who crawl on the floor, put toys in their mouths, or play in soil around their home or daycare can be poisoned. Children with too much lead in their bodies may not look or feel sick.
Have Your Children Tested for Lead
A simple blood test is the only way to know if your child has been exposed to lead. Ask your doctor or health care provider to test your child (most insurance will cover the costs). If you do not have health insurance, you can have your child tested free of charge through your local health department. Every local health department in the state is required to provide well-child services for its community, including lead screening and immunization. The Bergen County Health Department can be reached at 201-634-2600 or you can contact the Lead Safe New Jersey Program at 1-877-322-5323.
Find Out if Your Home Has Lead
• You may need to have your home or water tested. Your local or state health department can tell you how to do this for little or no cost. Many hardware stores also sell low-cost lead testing kits.
• Don’t try to remove lead on your own. It should be done by trained and certified workers. You can find a certified lead paint removal company by contacting your local or state health department. Getting rid of lead in the wrong way can make the problem worse! Children and pregnant women need to stay away during a lead removal project.