In this video segment adapted from Lead Awareness for Parents by the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning, learn about potential effects of lead exposure ...
Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning
This media asset was adapted from Lead Awareness for Parents.
Stream, Download and Share
© 2011 WGBH Educational Foundation. All Rights Reserved.
Adapted from Lead Awareness for Parents by the Coalition to Prevent Lead Poisoning.
The ingestion or inhalation of lead can cause serious health problems. For example, lead exposure can cause kidney damage, affect hearing, and impact bone and muscle growth. Lead is also harmful to the nervous system and is particularly dangerous for children whose systems are developing. Children who suffer from lead poisoning may have problems with learning, language, and behavior. Although blood lead levels of 10 micrograms per deciliter have been defined as the threshold level for concern, that doesn't mean that lower levels may not still have harmful effects. No safe level of lead has been identified, and it is likely that even low exposure may be harmful to health and development.
However, lead poisoning is preventable, and children can be protected. Lead paint and lead dust, the most common sources, are likely to be present in homes built before 1978. If you are not sure whether your home contains lead, a lead risk assessor or inspector can help you identify hazards.
If you know or even suspect that your home contains lead paint, follow these safety measures: Lead-painted surfaces in good condition are not generally harmful, but peeling paint and dust caused by friction (such as opening and closing painted windows and doors) are hazardous. Lead paint can have a sweet taste, so children may be tempted to eat paint chips. Children also tend to put hands and toys, which may have lead dust on them, in their mouths. Minimize lead dust and paint chips by keeping your house clean, and encourage frequent hand washing to reduce the amount of lead children might ingest. Vacuum often (ideally with a HEPA filter), and use a wet mop or sponge to wipe floors and other surfaces. (Do not scrape or use abrasive cleaners on painted surfaces.) Clean toys regularly, and do not let children chew on surfaces painted with lead paint, such as railings and windowsills. In addition, remove shoes indoors to avoid tracking in soil that might be contaminated with lead from peeling exterior paint.
Children under the age of six should have routine blood tests to check the level of lead in their blood. If they have elevated blood lead levels, you should eliminate sources of exposure. For example, a certified contractor can strip away lead paint or replace windows, trim, and doors that contain lead. Another common method to make homes safer is to encapsulate surfaces with a special coating that acts as a barrier to prevent contact with the lead underneath.
Additionally, a good diet can be protective against lead poisoning. Increased absorption of lead has been associated with empty stomachs and inadequate nutrition. In particular, insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals such as calcium, iron, and vitamin C may contribute to increased susceptibility to lead poisoning. Children should eat foods such as milk, cheese, yogurt, and leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli and kale) that are high in calcium. Good sources of iron include iron-fortified cereals, meats, beans and peas, raisins, and leafy green vegetables. Fruits and vegetables (especially citrus fruits such as oranges and grapefruit) are high in vitamin C. While nutrition cannot prevent lead poisoning, adequate intake of nutrients may reduce the severity of impacts from lead exposure.
- What are some of the health effects of lead poisoning?
- Why is childhood lead exposure a greater concern than lead exposure in adults?
- Why do you think checking for lead poisoning is required at 12 and 24 months of age?
- How can lead absorption be reduced through diet?
National Health Education Standards
2 (Grades: 6-8 ): Students will Analyze the influence of family, peers, culture, media, technology and other factors on health behaviors.
8 (Grades: 6-8 ): Students will Demonstrate the ability to advocate for personal, family and community health.