Nearly half a million children living in the United States have elevated blood lead levels that may cause significant damage to their health, according to estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Major sources of lead exposure to U.S. children include lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in deteriorating buildings. Children can also be exposed to lead from contaminated drinking water, take-home exposures from a workplace, lead in soil, and other sources.
Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can cause death.
Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable. In Iowa, the prevalence of lead poisoning among children younger than age six years is 7 percent. This is more than four times the national average of 1.6 percent.
The state recommends that all children have lead levels done at 1 year of age and again at 2 years of age; a higher frequency is recommended in high-risk children. It is important to make sure that these lead levels are being done, so that the source of the poisoning can be found and removed before the child’s lead level gets higher.
To increase awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, Jasper County Public Health Nursing, along with CDC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is participating in National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) Oct. 20-26.
This year’s NLPPW theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future,” underscores the importance of testing your home, testing your child, and learning how to prevent lead poisoning’s serious health effects.
In observance of NLPPW, events such as state proclamations, lead-awareness community events, and educational campaigns will be conducted nationwide. The Jasper County Lead Poisoning Prevention Program plans to distribute coloring books about lead poisoning prevention to child care centers throughout the county. Healthy homes booklets are being distributed to child care providers.
Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:
• Get your home test. Before you buy an older home, ask for a lead inspection.
• Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead.
• Get the facts! Your local health department can provide you with helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact Public Health at Skiff Medical Center at (641) 792-5086 or call 1-800-424-LEAD.