Is Your Child at Risk for Lead Exposure?

Disclosure :: this post is sponsored by Children’s Hospital of New Orleans.

Is Your Child at Risk for Lead Exposure?

We have all heard a lot about lead recently due to the crisis in Flint, Michigan or here in New Orleans, with the potential for lead exposure from Mardi Gras beads or the renovation of homes after Hurricane Katrina. Unfortunately, lead is a very scary element that historically was used in many items. Lead exposure can cause serious damage to children’s developing brains. Pediatricians play a key role in preventing exposure, identifying and treating lead poisoning in patients, and advocating for public health measures to address the problem.

How Are Children Exposed to Lead?

lead exposureResearchers at Tulane School of Public Health say that nearly two-thirds of New Orleans homes and yards have “dangerous” levels of lead, according to federal standards; a finding the authors believe may be linked to the extensive renovation and demolition of homes after Hurricane Katrina. Lead can remain in household dust, in soil that children unintentionally ingest through normal hand-to-mouth behavior, or in water that is supplied through lead pipes.

Now, what should you do as a mom to protect your children?

  • In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise. Local accredited laboratories can do testing on samples from the home to determine is lead was used in the paint or structure, or found in soil.
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation.
  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Until environmental clean-up is completed, you should clean and isolate all sources of lead. Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children’s access to other sources of lead.
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys.
  • Mardi Gras beads could be coated in lead based paint. Do not let young children put beads in their mouth (they can also be a choking hazard).
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead in older houses, you should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windowsills every 2-3 weeks.
  • Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing lead-contaminated soil in from outside.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes. Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible.

Your child’s healthcare provider can test your child’s blood levels. The tests are inexpensive or, in some cases, free. Your child’s healthcare provider will explain the test results and treatment can range greatly from simple changes in your diet to medicines or in extreme cases, a hospital stay.

More information is available on the Children’s Hospital’s online health library.

Additional Resources ::

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: A fact sheet for parents from the CDC
Environmental Protection Agency: Information about protecting children from lead exposure.
American Academy of Pediatrics: Lead Exposure in Children
Tulane University School of Public Health

About Dr. Aaron Thompson, MD, MPH, FAAP

thompson,-aaron---er-(web)132x198I am a father of a 10-year-old daughter and an 11-year-old son who have managed to avoid the Emergency Department by following the above tips. I am board certified in pediatrics, the Director of the Emergency Department at Children’s Hospital, and previously was a firefighter/EMT. I have been treating traumatic injuries since I earned my first aid merit badge as a Boy Scout.


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