ADH shares tips to reduce lead exposure in young children

The ADH will be participating in multiple activities in Arkansas throughout the week.
The ADH will be participating in multiple activities in Arkansas throughout the week.(WEAU)
Published: Oct. 26, 2023 at 10:17 PM CDT
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JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT/Edited News Release) - National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week highlights the many ways parents, caregivers, and communities can reduce children’s exposure to lead and prevent its serious health effects.

To raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, the Arkansas Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, are participating in NLPPW from Oct. 22 to 28.

The ADH will be participating in multiple activities in Arkansas throughout the week. To learn more about lead exposure, visit ADH’s Lead-Based Paint program at the following events in support of NLPPW:

  • Monday, Oct, 23: Make It Pink Health Fair, Forrest City Medical Center, Forrest City, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct, 26: Community Health Fair, Bill Thomas Technology Center, Wynne, 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
  • Thursday, Oct, 26: Big Boo!seum Bash, Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center, Little Rock, 5:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
  • Saturday, Oct. 28: Arkansas Minority Health Commission & Sebastian County NAACP Community Health Fair, St. James Missionary Baptist, Fort Smith, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Lead has been banned in the United States in paint and gasoline since the 1970s. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, which occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and builds up to toxic levels.

It is especially dangerous for children six years old and younger as their bodies are still developing and growing rapidly. The effects of lead poisoning during early childhood development can be severe.

Even in small amounts, lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system which can result in learning and behavior problems, delayed growth and development, as well as other health-related problems. Some of these effects may persist beyond childhood. For pregnant women, harmful effects include premature births, smaller babies, and miscarriage. There is no safe level of lead exposure.

Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is preventable. The key is preventing children from coming into contact with lead. In 2022, there were 274 children in Arkansas reported to have an elevated blood lead level.

A common source of lead exposure is from deteriorated lead-based paint, which was used inside and outside many homes built before 1978 and in other buildings and steel structures, that may be nearby or adjacent to homes. According to the CDC, 3.3 million American households with children under 6 years old have lead exposure hazards from lead in deteriorated paint, dust, or soil. Children can also be exposed to lead in drinking water, take-home exposures from a workplace, lead in soil, and from some metal toys or toys painted with lead-based paint. A simple blood test may be able to help prevent permanent damage from occurring.

The NLPPW theme, “Together, we can prevent lead exposure!” underscores the importance of learning how to prevent lead poisoning as well as testing your home and your child.

Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple ways to protect your family:

  • Get the Facts: Find out about the hazards of lead. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) can provide you with helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact them at 501-671-1472 or review the ADH Lead-Based Paint program website here.
  • Get Your Child Tested: A blood test is the best way to find out if a child has lead poisoning. Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children.
  • Get Your Home Tested: Find out how to minimize risks of lead exposure by hiring a certified professional to test older homes for lead. Water pipes in some older homes may contain lead solder where lead may leach out into the water. Learn more about lead in drinking water here.

The only way to fully rid a pre-1978 home of lead is to remove it. Abatement should always be done by a state-certified contractor. Abatement involves the removal of lead-based paint and dust-lead hazards; the permanent covering or encapsulation of lead-based paint; the replacement of parts or fixtures painted with lead-based paint; and the removal or permanent covering of soil-lead hazards, as well as all set-up, cleanup, disposal, and post abatement clearance testing actions linked to such measures. For a list of Arkansas lead accredited companies and personnel, please visit the ADH Lead-Based Paint program website.

Owners of homes built prior to 1978 who do not wish to fully abate, or remove, lead hazards should be careful when disturbing lead-based paint. Homeowners should only hire federally-certified Renovation, Repair, and Painting (RRP) program contractors, to make sure that the work is done in a lead-safe way. This protects people living in the home from hazards connected with renovation, repair, and painting. Done in the wrong way, these activities can create harmful leaded dust when lead paint is disturbed.

Further steps you can take to reduce exposure are:

  • Wash your child’s hands before meals and after playing outside.
  • Provide your child with meals and snacks that are high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C.
  • Frequently wash toys, pacifiers, and other items your child uses regularly.
  • Use wet methods to clean, including dusting and mopping.
  • Have your family members leave their shoes outside the door.
  • Ensure that any home renovation and maintenance work is done in a lead-safe way.

For more information, contact the Lead-Based Paint program at 501-671-1472 or contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD.