Childhood lead poisoning prevention
Lead Poisoning and Prevention
The Good News:
Lead Poisoning is 100% preventable.
What Is Lead Poisoning?
Lead is a naturally occurring metal that has been used in many products.
Lead is harmful to the human body, and there is no known safe level of lead in the body. A buildup of lead in the body is referred to as lead poisoning.
Small amounts of lead can build up in the body and can hurt the brain,
kidneys, and nervous system, slow down growth and development, make it hard to learn, damage hearing and speech, and cause behavioral problems.
Lead can stay in your body for a long time. Young children absorb lead more easily than adults. The harm done by lead may never go away.
What causes Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing lead. Once it gets into your body, it is poison.
The United States has taken many steps to remove sources of lead, but lead is still around us. Lead in paint was severely restricted in 1978. Lead solder in food cans was banned in the 1980s. Lead in gasoline was removed during the early 1990s. Some supplements or remedies, imported spices and cosmetics may contain high levels of heavy metals such as lead, mercury or arsenic, which can be dangerous to your health.
Who is primarily at risk for Lead Poisoning?
- Young children under six years of age who spend time in homes, childcare centers, or buildings built before 1978 that have chipping or peeling paint. The old paint may still have lead in it.
- Young children who play in bare soil, as they may get it in their mouths.
- Young children who eat non-food items (this behavior is known as "Pica"). This may be more common in children with a diet low in iron and calcium.
- Children who have recently come from or who spend time in other countries where more lead is found.
- Infants born to mothers with an elevated level of lead in their blood would be at risk for lead poisoning. Lead crosses the placenta and has harmful effects on the fetus. Pregnant women exposed to lead should ask their doctor about a blood test.
- Adults who work in jobs or hobbies where they work with lead may bring the lead dust home on their clothes or equipment and expose household members.
Children are more susceptible to the effects of lead because:
- children's growing bodies absorb more lead than an adult.
- children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
- children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
How do I know if my child has been exposed to lead?
A simple blood test conducted by your child’s healthcare provider can screen for lead. Most children do not have any symptoms even if a blood test shows that they have an elevated blood lead level. If your child does have symptoms, they may be mistaken for the flu or other illnesses. If symptoms occur, they might be:
- stomachache and cramps
- frequent vomiting
How can I reduce the risk of lead exposure?
Lead poisoning is 100% preventable. You can take the following steps to reduce your family’s exposure to lead in your home:
- Fix surfaces in the home that have peeling or chipping lead-based paint. If you rent, talk to your landlord about fixing this.
- Regularly clean floors, windowsills, and other surfaces using wet methods and take precautions to avoid lead dust when remodeling.
- Remove shoes or wipe soil off shoes before entering your house.
- Talk to your health care provider about testing your children for lead. Your pediatrician can check for lead with a simple blood test.
- Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often.
- Make sure children eat nutritious meals high in iron and calcium.
High levels of lead have been found in products such as:
- Ceramic pottery from other countries, especially Latin America, China and India. Do not use ceramic pottery for cooking or storing food.
- Imported herbal medicines from the Middle East, Latin America, China and India. Avoid the use of products that may contain lead.
- Imported candy and spices from Mexico, the Middle East, Latin America, India and China. If you think that you or your child has been exposed to lead in food, candy, or spices, contact your health care provider.
- Imported cosmetics like Kohl, Kajal, Surma and Sindoor from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Middle Eastern and African countries. Avoid using Kohl, Kajal, and Surma. Wash your hands after handling Sindoor and keep away from children.
- Imported jewelry, amulets and toys that are made in other countries. Lead can be swallowed by children that place these items in their mouths.
Environmental Lead Investigations
In accordance with New York State law, if a child’s blood lead level is 15 µg/dL of higher, it is reported by the healthcare provider to the Nassau County Department of Health. In response, the Department will conduct an environmental lead investigation where the child lives or spends time to identify the source of lead exposure.
The Nassau County Department of Health Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program can be reached at 516-227-9665, Monday through Friday, 9:00am – 4:45pm.
Lead Recall Notifications
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Product Recalls
- New York State Department of Health - Lead Hazard Product Recalls
- Good Nutrition Helps Reduce the Effects of Lead! (English; Spanish)
- Eat a Variety of Nutritious Foods to Help Reduce the Effects of Lead (English; Spanish)
- Lead Imported Products Factsheet (English; Spanish; French; Chinese; Arabic; Hindi; Bengali; Urdu; Punjabi)
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Lead Homepage
- MMWR-Lead in Drinking Water and Human Blood Levels in the United States (PDF)
- American Academy of Pediatrics Lead Policy Statement