Thursday, July 14, 2011

Get the lead out

Lead poisoning. Does it frighten you? Do you even think about it?

Remember when the big scare was paint chips -- like any of us let our kids sit around eating paint chips! Last I recall, they didn't flavor them. I mean, there weren't Barbecue Paint Chips, Salt and Vinegar Paint Chips or even Veggie Paint Chips. Paint chips were ... well, unappetizing. I was never concerned.

In recent years, however, the lead issue reared its ugly head in ways that did concern me. Lead in toys?! What?? We can largely thank China for that! You see, the problem is, while the U.S. government may enjoy poisoning us with GMOs, they do have stricter guidelines when it comes to toys. Which is probably why most of them are made in countries where the rules are, shall we say, lacking? I wonder if any of the people working in the toy factories in China let their kids play with the toys.

Or course, the U.S. government didn't get with the program about lead until the late 70s, which means environmental lead actually is a problem, in that much of the paint and plumbing in older buildings was packed with it.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, here are some common sources of lead that can put your children at risk:
  • Artificial turf (Phew ... don't have any of that around)
  • Ceramic cookware and dinnerware (I'm really not too sure about this one)
  • Candles with lead wicks (uh oh)
  • Folk medicines (I don't even know what they mean with this one. There haven't been any medicine men around my neighborhood lately, so maybe I'm safe)
  • Imported candy (What?? From what I read on labels lately, it seems like nearly all candy is imported these days!)
  • Imported vinyl mini-blinds (It's bad enough I have to look to see where my lettuce is coming from. Now I have to check out my mini-blinds. And what if they do have lead in them. I'm not planning on feeding them to my grandbabies!)
  • Porcelain-enameled bathtubs (NO!!! My haven. My retreat. My ... source of lead poisoning?! Maybe that's what's wrong with me. Too many hours ... and hours ... and hours ... soaking in that cesspool of lead.)
  • Tap water that moves through old pipes (Hmmm. House was built in '47. Pipes have not been replaced. Ummm ... things aren't looking too good here.)
  • Toy jewelry. (I'm thinking it's time to toss some of those necklaces, bracelets and rings from Chuck E. Cheese, Laura dear.)
  • Toys (Yes. I said it again. Toys.)
So what if your kiddo is spending his time playing with lead-infused toys? Or your little princess simply won't part with her Dollar Store tiara? Well, chances are your child won't end up with a blood level of 10 micrograms/dL or higher, but here are the signs to look for if you fear your child has been exposed to a bit too much lead:
  • Abdominal pain
  • Agitation
  • Clumsiness
  • Constipation
  • Decreased activity
  • Drowsiness
  • Headache
  • Loss of appetite
  • Restlessness
I know. Sounds like any number of things from typical kid stuff (clumsiness for instance) to too much cheese to boredom.

But if there is any chance these symptoms are a result of lead poisoning, it is important to get your child to a doctor immediately. Even when the amount of lead in the bloodstream is less than what is considered "poisoning," long-term problems can still develop. Elevated levels of lead can affect behavior because it disrupts brain and nerve function.

If your child is at risk, talk to your pediatrician about lead screening (which is usually done between the ages of 9 months and six years). Here is the list of questions to ask yourself, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP):
  1. Does your child life in or regularly visit a house or child care facility built before 1950?
  2. Does your child live in or regularly visit a house or child care facility built before 1978 that is being or has recently been renovated or remodeled?
  3. Does your child have a sibling or playmate who has or had lead poisoning?
If you answer 'yes' to any of the above questions, look into screening. The initial test is just a simple finger prick blood test. Your pediatrician might recommend screening if your child has a speech or language problem, delayed growth, anemia or an attention or behavior disorder.

There is no way to reverse the brain damage or neuropsychological effects of lead poisoning, so treatment (which could include chelation therapy) must be sought as early as possible.

It's about being a good parent. And that, after all, is your primary job.

Keeping it healthy,


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