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.
  • In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise. It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child may spend a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or child care). Talk to your state or local health department about ways to test your home for lead.
  • Women planning on having children, 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.
  • A contractor renovating/remodeling a house built before 1978 needs to be trained and/or licensed to work with lead.  EPA has a Lead Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) Rule  that establishes requirements for firms and individuals performing renovations, and affects contractors, property managers, and others who disturb painted surfaces. Contractors must also provide homeowners with a copy of EPA’s Renovate Right before work begins. Missouri is also responsible for licensing Lead Abatement Professionals.
  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint. Until lead remediation 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 or apply temporary barriers such as furniture or plastic to block children’s access to sources of lead.
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both dust and soil can be sources of lead.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components. Because household dust is a major source of lead in older houses, parents should wet-mop floors and wet-wipe horizontal surfaces every two to three weeks. Windowsills and troughs may contain high levels of lead dust and 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. Parents should plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or gravel. Until the bare soil is covered, parents should move play areas away from bare soil. 
  • Pets can also bring lead into the home. Dogs and cats with access to the outdoors could play in lead-contaminated soil and track that soil into the home and to children.
  • Property owners in Lead Mining areas need to contact Department of Natural Resources (DNR) or Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) with soil contamination concerns (map of lead areas).
  • Occupations with possible lead exposures may have set procedures in accordance with OSHA standards to prevent exposure and take home of lead. If not, you can take steps to Protect Yourself at Work. Lead safety practices include showering before leaving work, changing of clothes/shoes, and leaving work attire/equipment at work. It is recommended that all clothing with possible lead exposure be washed separately and cleaned with an additional rinse cycle to clean out any lead dust that may be left behind. It is also advisable to vacuum your car out using a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter.
  • If drinking water is of concern for lead contamination because of pipes or faucets in your home, flush the lines by running water for 15 to 30 seconds before using cold water only for drinking or cooking. Call your local health department or download the Important Information About Lead in Your Drinking Water brochure to identify possible sources of lead in water.

Treatment

  • Treatment for lead poisoning varies depending on how much lead is in the blood. The most important part of therapy is elimination of the lead exposure. Children with very high lead levels in their blood (greater than or equal to 45 micrograms per deciliter (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.

Importance of a Healthy Diet

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

Iron-Rich Foods

  • Normal levels of iron work to protect the body from the harmful effects of lead. Good sources of dietary iron include:
    • Lean red meats, fish, and chicken
    • Iron-fortified cereals
    • Dried fruits (raisins, prunes)

Calcium-Rich Foods

  • Calcium reduces lead absorption and helps make teeth and bones strong. Good sources of dietary calcium include:
    • Milk
    • Yogurt
    • Cheese
    • Green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, collard greens)

Vitamin C-Rich Foods

  • Vitamin C and iron-rich foods work together to reduce lead absorption. Good sources of vitamin C include:
    • Oranges, orange juice
    • Grapefruits, grapefruit juice
    • Tomatoes, tomato juice
    • Green peppers

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