Thoughtful Parenting: Keeping kids safe from items contaminated with lead

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What do parents need to know to protect their children from lead?

Thoughtful Parenting

This weekly column about parenting issues is written by local early childhood experts. It publishes on Mondays in the Steamboat Today. Read more columns here.

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement. Because children are growing and developing, their bodies absorb more lead than adult bodies absorb. Children’s developing brains and nervous systems are more easily damaged by lead. Children younger than 6 years old are at higher risk for exposure to lead because of their hand to mouth behavior.

Children can be given a blood test to measure the level of lead in their blood. Early identification of exposure to lead enables parents, doctors, public health workers and communities to prevent continued exposure to lead.

Lead can be found in a variety of sources. These include: paint in homes built before 1978, water pumped through leaded pipes; imported items including clay pots; certain consumer products such as candies; make -up and jewelry; and certain imported home remedies.

Parents can take simple steps to make their homes more lead-safe.

• If you live in a home built before 1978, contact your local environmental health department about testing options.

• Common home renovation activities like sanding, cutting and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint. These can be harmful to adults and children. Renovation activities should be performed by certified renovators who are trained by EPA-approved training providers to follow lead-safe work practices.

• If you see paint chips or dust in windowsills or on floors because of peeling paint, clean these areas regularly with a wet mop.

• Wipe your feet on mats before entering the home, especially if you work in occupations where lead is used. Removing your shoes when you are entering the home is a good practice to control lead.

• Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children. Stay up-to-date on current recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website, www.cpsc.gov. Lead may be found in the paint of either wooden or plastic toys. It was banned in house paint and other products in the United States in 1978. However, it still is widely used in other countries and still can be found on toys from other countries. Lead also can be found on toys made in the United States before the ban.

To learn more about preventing lead exposure, visit CDC’s website at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead.

Information provided by National Center for Environmental Health Division of Emergency and Environmental Health Services.

Beth Watson is a public health nurse with the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association. The VNA has been a member of the Routt County Early Childhood Council since its inception in 1997.

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