Protection Against Lead Poisoning PDF Print E-mail
Written by Dr. Niru Prasad   
    Lead Poisoning is a disease caused by eating lead
    contained in bits of old paints, dirt contaminated

    by lead, lead contained in pottery glaze or

    breathing lead in the air or from drinking water

    from pipes lined with lead.  Lead poisoning is very

    common in children especially those who live in

    rural areas in old houses built before 1970 and the

    incident increases if it is not detected early.

    Risk of lead poisoning is greatly increased if:

               a.  Children are poorly nourished.

               b.  City children living in old, poorly

                   maintained housing with lead chips peeling

                   off the walls.

               c.  Suburban and rural children with lead

                   exposures from other sources.

         What are the sources of lead in the environment?

               1.  Paint – Millions of homes have lead pain

                   on windows and sills, doors, frames,

                   walls, floor, stairs, railings and

                   banisters, woodwork molding, baseboard and

                   porches with fences.

               2.  Contaminated soil from chips, dust

                   from exterior paint, lead-based

                   insecticides and highway pollution from

                   lead containing gasoline.

               3.  Contaminated water from old plumbing

                   and lead water pipes.

               4.  Auto exhaust and industrial pollution.

               5.  Contaminated food, especially those

                   grown near heavily traveled roads, food

                   stored in poorly glazed pottery or

                   packaged in cans with lead seams or stored

                   in leaded crystal for prolonged periods.
    Other sources of lead include:

               1.  Dust from renovating the house.

               2.  Drapery and window weights.

               3.  Battery casing.

               4.  Antique pewter.

               5.  Some lead containing medicines and


               6.  Porcelain and potteries.

               7.  Dust and fumes from hobbies such as

                   stained glass, etc.

    Young children are affected more because:

               a.  They put everything in their mouths.

               b.  Their bodies absorb lead more easily

                   than adult's bodies do.

               c.  There are usually no early symptoms of

                  lead poisoning.

    What are the signs and symptoms of lead poisoning;

               1.  Flu-like symptoms.

               2.  Stomachache and cramps.

               3.  Irritability.

               4.  Fatigue.

               5.  Constipation or frequent vomiting.

               6.  Sleep disorder.

               7.  Poor appetite.

               8.  Inability to concentrate at school

                   leading to Attention Deficit Disorder.

    At lower lead level in the blood;

               a.  Children may show poor growth and


               b.  Low I.Q. scores.

               c.  Learning disabilities.

               d.  Damage to the nervous system.

               e.  Anemia.
    As more lead accumulates in blood, these children

    develop weakness, clumsiness and loss of acquired

    skills.  At higher levels, lead can cause coma,

    convulsions and death.


    Most children should be screened starting at 12 to

    15 months of age, however, in high-risk children;

    screening should be started at 6 to 9 months of


    Who are the high-risk children?

               1.  Children who live or play in old housing

                   with chipping lead paints from the wall.

               2.  Children who have siblings with high

                   lead level.

               3.  Live with someone who is exposed to

                   lead on the job.

               4.  Those who live near battery recycling

                   plants or other industries that release

                   lead in the air.

    What are the screening tests for lead poisoning;

               1.  Blood tests for anemia and lead level.

               2.  X-rays of long bones if lead levels

                   are high.

               3.  If the blood lead level is greater

                   than 10ug/di then the pediatrician should

                   follow National guidelines set by the

                   Center For Disease Control or American

                   Academy of Pediatrics for follow up and


               4.  Urine examination.


    A well child visit should include preventive

    information to the parents regarding the importance

    of avoiding lead hazards.

    Children should be advised to:

               a.  Eat a well balanced, high nutritious diet.

               b.  Frequent hand washing.

               c.  Avoiding lead dusts in older homes.

               d.  Measures to minimize exposures to lead

                   contaminated water.

    Here are some guidelines for prevention:

               1.  Be alert for chipping and flaking paint.

               2.  Watch your toddler closely, make sure

                   child puts only clean, safe toys in mouth.

               3.  Use safe interior paints on toys,

                   walls, and furniture.

               4.  DO NOT let them touch pottery.

               5.  Store unused food in glass or plastic

                   containers, NOT in open cans.

               6.  Don't allow your child to eat

                   snowflakes or icicles.

               7.  Have your water tested for lead

                   content frequently by contacting your

                   local public health.

               8.  Get rid of old cribs that might have

                   lead paint.

               9.  Children should be fed well balanced

                   diets with high iron and calcium.

               10. If you work with lead, always

                   shower and changes before coming home and

                   wash your clothes separately from other

                   family members clothing.   
    If lead paint is found in your home:

               a.  Keep a close eye on young children.

               b.  Wet mop hard surfaces with high

                   phosphate detergent.

               c.  Before removing or covering lead

                   paint, follow health and safety

                   requirements and precautions.  Evacuate

                   all occupants until the job is done and

                   store furniture, rugs and food dishes away

                   from the area until clean up has been


               d.  DON'T burn painted wood.

               e.  If you suspect lead in your water

                   pipes let cold water run for a few minutes

                   before using it for cooking or drinking

                   and buy a filter that is certified for

                   lead removal.

    For more information about lead poisoning, you may


               1.  Local Water Department about water pipe


               2.  Poison Control Center.

               3.  Public Health Department.

               4.  Local Housing Authority.

               5.  Family physician or health centers.

               6.  Local Childhood Lead Poisoning

                   Prevention Program.