Lead Poisoning Affecting Children Nationwide

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COLUMBIA - High levels of lead have recently been found in eggs from chickens. Lead poisoning is both preventable and treatable; however, parents do not realize many children are exposed to lead daily. According to 2011 Missouri blood lead testing data, "712 children under the age of six, were identified with elevated blood lead levels in the state."

Columbia Environmental Health Supervisor Kala Gunier said Boone County is not a high risk area for lead. However, according to the Missouri lead testing areas map, Osage, Maries, Gasconade, Montgomery, Moniteau, Cooper, Howard, Cheriton and Monroe Counties are high risk areas.

Children under the age of six years are at a higher risk of lead poisoning because they are growing so quickly. Young children tend to put their hands on contaminated objects then put their hands in their mouths putting them at a greater risk to lead poisoning. 

Lead can be found in many products including paint, dust, soil, children's toys and jewelry and lead-glazed ceramics. "Lead poisoning has been known to cause problems with the brain which means a decrease in IQ points and a decrease in academic achievement," according to Pediatriacian Timothy Fete.

According to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services, "Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead." The Department lists a number of key points to help prevent lead poisoning including:
• Determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child may spend a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.
• Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint and dust from your home for lead.
• Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
• Pregnant women and children should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation. They should not participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.
• Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Until environmental clean-up is completed, parents should clean and isolate all sources of lead. They should close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children's access to other sources of lead.
• Regularly wash children's hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources.
• Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead, parents should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every 2-3 weeks. Windowsills and wells can contain high levels of leaded dust. They should be kept clean. If feasible, windows should be shut to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces or opened from the top sash.
• Prevent children from playing in bare soil; if possible, provide them with sandboxes. Parents should plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips, if possible. Until the bare soil is covered, parents should move play areas away from bare soil and away from the sides of the house. If using a sandbox, parents should also cover the box when not in use to prevent cats from using it as a litter box. That will help protect children from exposure to animal waste.

Officials say parents should be wary of old plumbing, keeping the house and family clean and making sure calcium and iron are a part of a regular diet.