Childhood lead poisoning is a serious environmental health issue for young children who live in older housing and who may have been exposed to lead through their home environment, their parent's work which may come home unknowingly attached to clothes, shoes or items from the workplace, hobbies or crafts which parents or others in the family may pursue, or from locations frequent visited that were built before 1978. Regardless of the source of the lead and there can be many sources of lead, the only way to know if a child has lead is to do a blood test.
The 2022 NLPPW has three main themes:
- Get the facts on lead.
- Get your child tested for lead.
- Test your home for lead.
Parents are encouraged to learn as much as they can about lead and whether their children could be exposed to this harmful metal. There is no safe blood lead level (BLL) in children and even low levels of lead in blood can cause developmental delays, difficulty learning, behavioral issues, and neurological damage. The effects of lead poisoning can be permanent and disabling. Children are most at risk to lead poisoning because their small bodies are going through the greatest amount of growth, particularly the central nervous system, during the 0-6 year age time and lead is easily absorbed into their small bodies. With proper nutrition, good hygiene and by following simple house cleaning rules, lead exposure and absorption can be greatly reduced.
The only way to know if a child has been exposed to lead is through a blood test. A capillary test or finger poke can be given to test the blood lead but if it is elevated above the current reference level of 3.5 micrograms/deciliter, then a follow-up venous (blood from a vein in the arm) would be required. Some physicians, will order a venous initially and skip the capillary step. Either way is okay. The important thing is to get tested, particularly if the child lives in a home built before 1978 or is on a Medicaid Health Plan. Michigan Medicaid requires all children be tested at 12 and 24 months of age, and for children between 36 and 72 months, who were not previously tested, to be tested at least once.
If you live in an older home built before 1978 or if you are thinking of buying an older home, consider having it tested for lead, especially before purchasing. This is really important if you have young children. This also applies to rental property. If you are renting and it is an older home, you may want to ask your landlord if it has ever been tested for lead or even if a child has ever lived in the home and tested high for lead. The Michigan Lead Safe Home Program (LSHP) may be an option for you to consider if you currently rent or own your home and you have a child under the age of 6 or a pregnant female living in the home. There is an income eligibility requirement also. They can do an assessment if you have a child with an elevated blood lead level.
Resources for more information and education
The Centers for Disease Control and the Environmental Protection Agency have a variety of webinars geared toward the medical management of lead, general infomration on lead, RRP, and even a train the trainer curriculum.