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Tips for parents to protect kids from exposures to lead

Being a parent is hard work, and sometimes it can seem as if the deck is stacked against you and your kids. If your child is exposed to lead in the home environment, he or she will definitely experience life-long difficulties.

Living in a toxic home

This highly toxic metal is found in many rental houses and apartments in southern California. Keep in mind that up until 1978, it was legal to paint homes and apartments with lead-based paint.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States has roughly 24 million housing units contaminated by deteriorated lead paint. The paint becomes mixed with ordinary house dust and clings to surfaces and floors throughout the dwelling. It's estimated that there are over 4 million infants and toddlers are living in these contaminated homes.

Lead poisoning in kids a barrier to success

When young children are exposed to lead — and there are no known safe exposures — they are susceptible to multiple conditions and developmental abnormalities that are irreversible. The damage can be to the nervous and circulatory systems, brain and kidneys.

Children with lead exposures often experience seizures, behavioral problems and learning disabilities. Some die as a result of the damage they suffer. While some kids display no discernible symptoms, others experience some or all of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Upset stomach
  • Irritability
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness

Lead can be found outside in the soil surrounding the house or apartment. Kids and adults track it inside on their shoes and contaminate the floors where babies learn to crawl. Then, they put dusty fingers into mouths or nibble on a paint chip, and their fate is sealed.

How can parents protect kids?

In a perfect world, not living in a home with elevated lead levels is the best way to protect them. But we live in reality, and it's a sad fact that some parents are forced to rear their children in less-than-optimal environments.

If you know or suspect that there is lead contamination in your rental house or apartment, your landlord has the obligation to provide a safe living space for all tenants. He or she should be notified so that the proper decontamination steps can be taken. Tenants can also notify the county or state health departments so that they can test for lead levels.

Below are some tips for parents to take to keep their children's environments as lead-free as possible.

  • Don't let kids play in the dirt. Fill a covered sandbox with sand and let them dig to their heart's consent.
  • Keep surfaces free of dust. Treat all accumulations of dust as potential lead exposures.
  • Reduce amount of household dust. This is especially vital during routine maintenance tasks, remodeling and renovations.
  • Take shoes off outside. Slip on a pair of slippers only worn inside.
  • Damp mop floors weekly. This is an important part of controlling household dust.
  • Vacuum regularly using a HEPA filter. It's important to use it on upholstery, too.
  • Pick up paint chips. Use a paper towel to pick up, then wipe with a damp one.

If you suspect that lead exposures have occurred with your children, seek medical testing for them. While there is no way to ameliorate the damage, getting your children supportive services they may now require can be beneficial to them as they grow up.

You may decide to also pursue legal action against the person(s) or companies who were responsible for your children's exposures to this environmental toxin.

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