From China and Antarctica to Ohio and California, no nation or state is free of lead poisoning. It affects humans and wildlife, as well as children and adults, with children being the most susceptible to harm from lead.
Lead paint, dirt, imported candies & cosmetics, and “take home” lead from occupational exposures are typically suspected in lead poisoning cases. An estimated 3.6 million American homes with at least one child have significant lead paint hazards, and as many as 500,000 US children (2.5%) under six years have an elevated blood lead level. But, if adults know what to look for and what to do, most cases of lead poisoning can be prevented.
“Lead poisoning is one of the most important and most preventable pediatric environmental diseases today. Lead poisoning can cause a variety of medical problems, including learning disabilities, anemia, growth problems, and behavioral issues,” said Cyrus Rangan, MD, a pediatrician and medical toxicologist with California Poison Control System (www.calpoison.org). He added that children are most commonly exposed to lead by ingesting paint chips or paint dust and by eating dirt that is contaminated with lead. Loose, dry soil may lead to an increased risk of lead exposure in children who play outside in the dirt, especially on hot, dry days.
“Persisting drought conditions throughout the Western states keep soils quite dry, making it easier for children to be exposed to loosened dirt while playing outside,” said Dr. Rangan. He added, “Older buildings with lead paint can also contribute to the build-up of lead in soil on the property. Washing fruits and vegetables from the garden may help reduce exposure to lead in topsoil. Teach children not to eat food from the garden without washing it first.”
Dr. Rangan suggests that the best ways prevent lead poisoning in children start with good supervision, watching what they put into their mouths, having them wash their hands frequently and providing a diet with appropriate amounts of iron and calcium. Children who are undernourished may absorb more lead into their bodies than children with well-balanced diets. For more information, visit https://calpoison.org/about-
Visit www.calpoison.org or call Poison Control at 1-800-222-1222 for questions about poison encounters. Trained pharmacists, nurses, and other providers are available to help 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The service is free, confidential and interpreters are available. Get weekly tips about safety by texting TIPS to 20121 for English or texting PUNTOS to 20121 for Spanish. Follow CPCS on Facebook and on Twitter @poisoninfo. CPCS is part of the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy and is responsible to the California Emergency Medical Services Authority.