The week of Oct. 19-25, 2014 is designated as National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an annual observance spearheaded by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The theme of this year’s observance is “Lead-Free KIDS for a Healthy Future.”
Lead poisoning remains the most significant environmental threat to the health of America’s children, affecting as many as 535,000. While lead poses health problems for people of all ages, its impacts are most devastating to infants and children aged six years old and younger and to pregnant women. Exposure to lead at an early age can cause lifelong learning and behavioral difficulties.
In the majority of cases, children are exposed to lead via inhalation of aging lead-based paint. Lead was a common additive in most house paints until a governmental ban in 1978. Older homes, then, are suspect for lead paint content. As the paint ages and degrades, it breaks down into fine, talc-like dust, which creates an inhalation danger. By conservative estimates, at least 25 percent of all American homes were constructed before 1978.
All children under the age of 6 should be routinely tested for lead poisoning, preferably during their 12-month and 24-month well-child checks. The procedure is quick and simple and can be conducted at your doctor’s office or local health clinic.
You can protect yourself and your children, even in an older home, by avoiding the sources of lead and observing some basic cleaning principles.
- Keep painted surfaces in good repair, paying particular attention to doors and windowsills.
- Clean floors, windowsills and other hard surfaces with soap and water weekly or more frequently.
- Wash your children’s hands, bottles, cups and pacifiers often — and always before eating and drinking. Wash their toys regularly, as well.
- Avoid leaded crystal, older dishes and imported ceramics.
- Serve healthy meals and snacks. Foods rich in calcium, iron and Vitamin C help reduce lead absorption.
- Encourage outside play in grassy areas, avoiding bare soil around the home’s foundation.
For more information about lead poisoning prevention, contact Linda Hyder at the UT Extension – Sevier County Office, 865-453-3695 or the Tennessee Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 865-974-8178.