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What Are The Early Signs of Lead Poisoning?

Approximately 24 million homes in the United States contain dangerous and highly toxic deteriorated lead-based paint. More than 500,000 children 1 to 5 years in age have elevated blood levels. Blood levels as low as 5 mcg/dL are sufficient to cause permanent cognitive, neurological, emotional and behavioral problems in young children.  Toddlers 1 to 3 years old are particularly at risk because they play on the floor and put their hands, toys, books -- you name it -- in their mouth on a constant basis. That hand-to-mouth behavior can transfer lead dust and lead paint chips into a child's mouth in sufficient quantity to result in lead poisoning.

Not all houses or apartments have lead-based paint. Lead was outlawed in the mid-1970s and is not used in modern paints. However, you should assume that any house or apartment built prior to 1978 (and there are literally millions of such homes in the U.S.) contain lead-based paint. Lead-based paint that is chipping, flaking, cracking, chalking or which is the subject of constant friction (e.g., double hung windows and doors opening and closing) is exceedingly dangerous as it can be ingested or inhaled by children. Lead and/or lead-based paint can also be found on old toys, pottery from Mexico or Central America and certain homeopathic remedies and candies from Latin America and Asia. Be careful using these products!

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning is "asymptomatic." That means it is a medical condition that does not show specific symptoms that can be immediately associated with lead.

Infants exposed to lead before birth may be impacted with:

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Slow or delayed growth

Symptoms of lead poisoning in children may include:

  • Learning delays
  • Delayed or faulty speech
  • Difficulty falling asleep or sleeping
  • Aggression
  • Irritability
  • Tripping and falling
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures

Symptoms of adult lead poisoning may include:

  • Pain in muscles or joints
  • Headache
  • Memory problems
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood problems
  • High blood pressure
  • Abdominal pain
  • Low sperm count or sperm abnormalities
  • Miscarriage, premature birth, or stillbirth in pregnant women

Very high lead levels can cause nervous system problems, kidney damage, seizures, loss of consciousness or death in children and adults.

Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead poisoning is very, very serious. As a result, you should speak to your pediatrician and have your child blood tested at 12 and 24 months. Blood tests for lead are mandatory if your child receives government benefits (e.g., MediCal). Blood tests are the only way to determine if your child has lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning is 100 percent preventable. You can help prevent lead poisoning by making sure your pre-1978 home or apartment is free from deteriorating, flaking, peeling, chipping or chalking paint. In addition, you should:

  • Wash. Frequently wash hands and toys.
  • Dust. Keep surfaces dust-free.
  • Keep floors clean. Remove shoes before entering your home.
  • Clear pipe residue. Run cold water before using, to help remove lead in pipes.
  • Provide a play space that is not on soil. Plant grass, cover soil with mulch, provide a sandbox, or designate a patio play area.
  • Maintain a healthy diet. Good nutrition and regular meals may reduce absorption of lead. Children need sufficient vitamin C, calcium, and iron to help inhibit lead absorption.
  • No Biting! Make sure your child is not chewing on window sills (lead-based paint is sweet) or putting paint chips in her mouth!

Using basic precautions can help you protect your family and yourself from lead exposure and avoid potentially serious harm.

If you have questions about lead poisoning, call our firm.

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