Lead is an extremely toxic substance that has poisoned millions of people throughout the years. Even though lead exposure is almost entirely preventable, it is the most common cause of preventable poisonings in children. Nearly every child in the United States has been exposed to lead during some point in their lives.
Many children live in homes where there is lead in the paint coating the walls. Small children are in danger of ingesting significant quantities of lead when putting chips of these paints in their mouths. Homes that were built prior to 1978 have a higher chance of containing lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust. Your state or local health department has tests that can be performed to determine the lead levels in paint or dust.
Some children are exposed to lead in their drinking water from older pipes and fittings transporting the water into their home. However, the levels of lead from drinking water are often low because the lead is removed when the water is treated. There are simple tests that can be performed to determine the level of lead in the water coming from the faucet.
The effects of lead exposure can be wide ranging in children younger than their teenage years. The nervous systems of children are particularly susceptible to the effects of lead exposure because their systems are still developing. Children that are exposed to lead experience hearing loss and delayed growth. High levels of lead exposure can cause severe brain damage and death.
Lead exposure has developmental effects as well. Children exposed to high levels of lead exposure may have difficulty learning how to read or do math. Lead exposure can also affect the child’s behavior, causing them to appear hyperactive, inattentive, and irritable. The learning and behavioral disorders brought on by lead exposure can be permanent.
Exposure to lead can be treated if identified early enough. It is recommended that all children get tested for lead exposure several times during their childhood. The test typically involves a simple blood test performed by their doctor or a public health agency. The results will reveal if the child has dangerous levels of lead in their body.
If the child has high lead levels in their blood, the source of the lead should be found quickly. When the source is found, it must be removed or repaired to prevent further harm. Medications are available that can help remove the lead from the body. Children with exceptionally high levels of exposure may need to undergo chelation therapy to remove the lead from the body.