Was your home been built prior to 1978? If so, it may contain lead-based paint, which can cause lead poisoning. In 1978, the federal government banned consumer uses of lead-based paint, but some states banned it even earlier. Lead paint is still present in millions of homes, sometimes under layers of newer paint. Lead is a heavy metal found in the Earth’s crust. It is a natural element that does not break down in the environment and is very hard to clean up. Lead exposure occurs in the home environment due to deteriorating paint, which is peeling, chipping, or chalking. Deteriorating paint chips can be ingested by small children, and create a dust which many children also come into contact with lead by hand-to-mouth exposure and inhalation.
Childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Some symptoms for children that have lead poisoning may include developmental delay, learning difficulties, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, hearing loss and seizures. You can have your child’s blood tested for high levels of lead at your child’s primary care provider or local health department. A blood test is the only way to determine if your child has a high lead level – most children will not show symptoms. Some symptoms adults may have from lead poisoning may include high blood pressure, joint and muscle pain, difficulties with memory, having trouble concentrating, headache, abdominal pain and mood disorders.
The first step in treating lead poisoning is to remove the source of the contamination. If you can’t remove lead from your environment, you might be able to reduce the likelihood that it will cause problems. For instance, sometimes it’s better to seal in rather than remove old lead paint. For children and adults with relatively low lead levels, simply avoiding exposure to lead might be enough to reduce blood lead levels. There is also heavy metal toxicity medication which can be obtained at a health care provider. This medication attaches itself to heavy metals in your bloodstream and takes it out through urine or stool.
Other sources that may include lead can be from water that is transported through lead soldered pipes. Glazes found on some ceramics china and porcelain can contain lead that can leach into food served or stored in the pottery. Lead is sometimes found in toys and other products produced abroad. Tiro, an eye cosmetic from Nigeria, has been linked to lead poisoning. Kohl is another eye makeup that may contain lead. Lead poisoning has been linked to greta and azarcon, traditional Hispanic medicines, as well as some from India, China and other countries. Tamarind, an ingredient used in some candies made in Mexico, might contain lead. People who are exposed to lead and can bring it home on their clothes when they work in auto repair, mining, pipe fitting, battery manufacturing, painting, construction and certain other fields.
If you think your home may contain lead and you want more information on lead poisoning you can visit the Ohio Department of Health website or CDC website for more information. You can also contact the Meigs County Health Department at 740-992-6626 Monday-Friday (8 am – 4 pm).
Daschle Facemyer, BS, is Sanitarian in Training for the Meigs Health Department.