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Preventing lead poisoning

Lead poisoning in young children is caused by breathing or swallowing lead – and it's completely preventable.

A home that has loose or peeling paint and was built before 1978 poses a risk for lead poisoning. Mary Jean Brown is the chief of the Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning branch of the Centers for Disease Control. She says children from 12-to-24-months of age are most at risk. because they tend to put their hands into their mouths. Trying to remove the old paint could make a bad situation even worse.

"Anything that disturbs old painted surfaces is going to produce dust, and that dust is highly toxic," Brown says. "In some cases it can be inhaled, in other cases it falls out on the floor and it gets  incorporated into the house dust. And again, it's the same issue with very small children putting their hands and other things into their mouths. They can ingest and swallow the lead dust if it gets onto something else."

Brown says anyone removing lead paint should follow the renovation rules set by the EPA. "These rules require that general contractors who are doing work in houses built before 1978 clean up any dust that's created as a result of that work," Brown says. "So that's incredibly important, that parents know that that's what their contractors are supposed to be doing. Or if they are doing the work themselves, they can go to the EPA website and they can get a booklet called Renovating Safely."

Lead can also be found in water, toys, and other household products.  

Symptoms of lead poisoning are nearly impossible to detect. But left untreated, a child can develop behavioral problems and a decreased I-Q. If you suspect your child has been exposed, have your pediatrician do a blood lead test.

Learn more:

Prevent exposure to lead

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