The news in Flint, Michigan has been sad. An entire city exposed to lead, unbeknownst to them. But Flint is a long way from Greenville, TX and it took a cascade of bad decisions for things to turn out so badly in Flint. So should we worry about lead poisoning here in Greenville?
First, let’s consider why lead is a problem. Lead is a neurotoxin, meaning it causes damage to the brain, particularly the developing brain. This means it poses a special threat to pregnant women and children. The World Health Organization estimates that lead contributes to 600,000 new cases of intellectual disability each year. Sadly children may exhibit no symptoms to warn a parent of the problem.
Second, we need to understand where exposure to lead might happen. Lead was commonly used in manufacturing before we understood its dangers. Lead could be found in paint and gasoline, as well as in pipes, and the material used to solder the pipes together. Once the toxicity of lead became clear, state and federal laws were put into place to remove lead from these and other products. But what those laws didn’t do was make the lead that was already out there magically disappear. And this is where we need to focus our concern today.
Pay special attention to environments built before 1978. The CDC suggests the following precautions:
Any structure built before 1978 is at higher risk of containing lead-based products. If your home or any other facility your child spends time in was built before 1978, extra care should be taken.
Make sure there is no peeling paint your child can put in his mouth.
Do not let children be present during renovation of a pre-1978 structure. Lead can be inhaled as dust, so even the air in these environments can be a danger.
If you are buying or leasing a home built before 1978, consider having the home tested for lead before you finalize the lease or purchase.
Lead may be found on products imported from countries that don’t have strict lead laws. The CDC specifically identifies certain products that are known risks:
Candies imported from Mexico may be contaminated by lead.
Some imported cosmetics and traditional folk medicines may contain lead.
Glazed ceramic dishware may be painted with lead paint. Only serve food on dishes you know to be lead-free.
Toys imported from other countries may be contaminated by lead. Keep an eye on the recall list provided by the Consumer Product Safety Commission and immediately stop your child from playing with recalled products.
What if you are worried you or your child has already been exposed to lead?
Give your doctor a call. Lead levels can be checked with a blood test and treatment decisions made from there. Remember that lead accumulates over time in the body, so the sooner you address concerns, the more problems can be prevented.
Photo Credit: © Georgiy Pashin/Dollar Photo Club