Preventing Lead Poisoning

Did you know that approximately two million children in the United States suffer from lead poisoning and that your child could be at risk?

"St. Louis is among the 10 worst cities in the nation in terms of numbers of children affected by lead poisoning," says St. Louis Children's Hospital pediatrician Larry Jones, M.D. "A majority of homes in the city were built before the use of lead-free paints and gasoline was mandated." Dr. Jones says that as many as one-third of the children screened in his offices show low to moderate levels of contamination resulting from lead paint chips and dust.

"Lead poisoning is preventable, yet extremely common. There must be more we can all do to protect our children from exposure," Dr. Jones says.

Lead is an environmental metal that is toxic to the human body. Children with even moderate elevations of blood lead levels can exhibit evidence of toxicity, such as attention deficit disorder, learning disabilities and developmental delays. "Because poor school performance, delinquency and social isolation are the foundations of crime and poverty, elimination of exposure to this poison would improve all our lives," Dr. Jones says.

Lead may be present in paint, old plumbing, pipe solder, pottery, soil near buildings previously painted with leaded paint, even everyday household items such as vinyl mini-blinds. Dr. Jones advises parents to have those "handyman specials" tested by environmental inspectors before buying. Instant lead test kits purchased at retail outlets can also warn families of unsafe conditions.

Dr. Jones recommends routine screenings beginning at age one. "It's a simple but extremely important blood test that could change the course of a child's life. There is no reason not to have it."

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