Protect Your Children from Lead Exposure

Tips to keep your little ones safe from a notorious poison.

Lead poisoning is a serious health risk, and it’s more common than you might think. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to lead. In the U.S., there are approximately half a million children ages 1 through 5 with blood lead levels above the reference level at which the CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. Fortunately, exposure to lead is preventable. You need to be most cautious with children under the age of 6; they are more likely to come into contact with lead-contaminated objects while they’re playing and exploring the world around them. If you think your family has been exposed to lead, your doctor can run a simple test to check. Meanwhile, here are some tips for keeping your home safe.

Have your home inspected. According to the CDC, approximately 24 million housing units have elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. Especially if your house was built before 1978, it may contain lead paint or other sources of lead, including plumbing pipes. If possible, have lead-based paint replaced, and store your belongings during the process.

Keep kids away from sources of contamination. Old windows and porches—especially with peeling paint chips that kids can eat—dirt next to old homes and bare soil can all contain lead. If your kids come into contact with these sources of lead, make sure they wash their hands.

Choose toys carefully. Many children’s toys and other items made of vinyl or plastic—such as backpacks, lunchboxes, bibs or car seats—can contain lead. Stick to reputable brands and avoid buying cheaply made or used products.

Drink wisely. Tap water can have a high lead content. Consider having your water tested for lead. A list of certified laboratory of labs are available from your state or local drinking water authority.

Keep it clean. Encourage your child to wash up frequently, including bathing after playing outdoors. Wash kids’ toys often, and regularly wipe floors and other surfaces at home with a damp mop or sponge.

Use caution in the kitchen. Don’t store food in open cans. Use glass, plastic or stainless steel instead. Unless you’re sure pottery is lead-free, use it only for decoration and not for serving food.

Work safely. If you have to work with lead, shower right away, and either wash your contaminated clothing by itself or keep it in your work area. Keep anything that may contain lead, such as materials used in making ceramics, out of the reach of children.

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