Lead Poisoning

Sections

Who is at risk?
How are children exposed to lead?
Prevention
Lead and a Healthy Diet
What are the Health Effects of Lead?
Testing and Reporting
Treatment

Today at least 4 million households have children living in them that are being exposed to lead. There are approximately half a million U.S. children ages 1-5 with blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter (µg/dL), the reference level at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated. According to 2012 Missouri blood lead testing data, 4,672 children under the age of six who were tested had blood lead levels between 5 and 9.9 µg/dL. 728 children under the age of six had blood lead levels equal or greater to 10 µg/dL, CDC’s previous level of concern.

Who is at risk?

Anyone, child or adult, could be at risk depending on where they live, their school, child care, or occupation.

All children under the age of 6 years old are at risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths.

However, children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are at greatest risk. Additionally, children of some racial and ethnic groups and those living in older housing are disproportionately affected by lead.

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How are children exposed to lead?

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem. Approximately 24 million housing units have deteriorated leaded paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. More than 4 million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children.

Lead can be found in many products:

Jobs and Hobbies

You could bring lead home on your hands or clothes, or contaminate your home directly if you:

If you have a job or hobby where you may come into contact with lead:

If you are an owner or operator of outdoor rifle, pistol, trap, skeet or sporting clay ranges, find out more about lead management at ranges.

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Prevention

Lead poisoning is preventable. The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.

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Lead and a Healthy Diet

Children with empty stomachs absorb more lead than children with full stomachs. Provide your child with four to six small meals during the day. The following nutrients can help protect your child from absorbing lead:

For healthy eating tips, games, recipes, and activity sheets, go to: www.choosemyplate.gov

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What are the Health Effects of Lead?

Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Elevated blood lead levels can occur without any symptoms. Children who may appear healthy can have elevated blood lead levels.

Children

Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead. In children, the main target for lead toxicity is the nervous system. Even very low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:

Pregnant Women

Lead can accumulate in our bodies over time, where it is stored in bones along with calcium. During pregnancy, lead is released from bones as maternal calcium is used to help form the bones of the fetus. This is particularly true if a woman does not have enough dietary calcium. Lead can also be circulated from the mother’s blood stream through the placenta to the fetus. Lead in a pregnant woman’s body can result in serious effects on the pregnancy and her developing fetus, including:

Adults

Lead is also harmful to other adults. Adults exposed to lead can suffer from:

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Testing and Reporting

Who should be tested?

Methods of Testing

The choice of a sample collection method (venous or capillary) should be determined by the physician. Capillary sampling can perform well as an initial testing tool. Confirm capillary results with a venous blood draw if the results of the capillary are 10 µg/dL or greater.

Reporting

Doctors are required to report all lead test results to the state health department.

Additional testing information is located on our Lead Testing Guidelines and Risk Assessment Tool webpage.

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Treatment

Treatment for lead poisoning varies depending on how much lead is in the blood. The most important part of therapy is reduction of lead exposure. Children with high lead levels in their blood (greater than or equal to 44 µg/dL) will likely be hospitalized to receive a medication called a chelating agent, which chemically binds with lead, allowing the body to excrete it naturally. Treatment options should be discussed with your child’s physician.

 

Please visit these websites for additional information on lead:
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

Other Department of Health and Senior Services websites of interest may include:
Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance (ABLES)
Lead Licensing