By John Voket
While October marks National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW)—a federal initiative sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)—it's important to keep this top-of-mind regardless of the time of year.
The CDC says that lead paint has been banned for use in house paints in the United States since 1978, and even though increased awareness of the risk of lead poisoning and primary prevention efforts have helped decrease the rate of lead-poisoned children, nearly half a million children living in the U.S. have elevated blood lead levels that may cause significant damage to their development and overall health.
In addition to paint and dust inside their homes, the CDC says children can also be exposed to lead that may be found in the soil around the outside of homes, and even from the toys they play with. For everyone living in a home or apartment built before 1978, it is important to understand the steps that should be taken to protect children from lead poisoning.
These steps include:
Learn about hazards. Flaking, cracking and chipping paint in homes built before 1978 may be a hazard. Learn what you can do to prevent lead paint hazards by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/biomonitoring/Lead_factsheet.html.
Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, ask your doctor to test them for lead at least twice before the age of five. These tests are usually conducted at the 12- and 24-month well-child visits.
To that end, the American Academy of Pediatrics notes that lead poisoning is usually detected by measuring the level found in blood. While finger-prick samples are appropriate for screening tests, all elevated capillary levels should have confirmation with a venous blood draw since capillary tests can yield frequent false positives.