Lead is found in many places—including old paint, dust, soil, water, and some toys—and small amounts of the harmful substance can do irreversible damage to babies and young children. Even when there are no symptoms, exposure to lead can affect a child’s brain, nervous system, and other organs, and can lead to problems with IQ, attention span and behavior.
If you and your family live in an older home, your child could be at risk for lead poisoning—and there is no cure for this serious condition. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable.
Golisano Children’s Hospital pediatrician Dr. Stanley Schaffer says you can protect your children by taking these steps:
- Clean regularly. Dust from chipping or peeling paint is the most common source of lead exposure. Clean your children’s toys and pacifiers often, and wash your floors and window sills every two to three weeks.
- Keep your children away from peeling paint or chewable surfaces with lead-based paint. Lead paint has a sweet taste, which encourages children to put paint chips in their mouths and chew on surfaces like windowsills that may contain lead paint.
- Run cold water out of your kitchen faucet for a few minutes every morning. Many faucets still contain lead, but that doesn’t mean you should make the switch to bottled water. Instead, each morning flush out the water that has been sitting in your pipes and faucet overnight. Let the cold water in your kitchen faucet run at a brisk rate for one to two minutes to remove any harmful particles.
- Be aware of potential hazards in your home. If your home was built before 1978, it likely has lead paint in it. Have your home tested for lead, especially before starting a renovation project, and don’t attempt to remove lead paint yourself. Make sure that anyone who does renovation work in your home is RRP certified by the EPA.
Early intervention and treatment for lead poisoning is key, but the only sure way to know if your child has been exposed to lead is to get a blood test. Talk to your child’s pediatrician and make sure they are tested at ages 1 and 2.
Stanley Schaffer, M.D., is an associate professor of Pediatrics and a pediatrician at UR Medicine’s Golisano Children’s Hospital. He also serves as the medical director of the Rochester office of the Western New York Lead Poisoning Resource Center.