National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) focuses on the many ways parents can reduce children’s exposure to lead in their environment and prevent serious health effects from lead poisoning. To raise awareness of childhood lead poisoning prevention, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), along with other agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, is participating in NLPPW October 21-27. The ADH will be participating in multiple activates in Arkansas throughout the week. Visit the ADH’s Lead-Based Paint Program to learn more about lead exposures at the following events in support of NLPPW:
Thursday, Oct. 25: Fuller and Son Hardware (LR), 5915 R Street, Little Rock, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25: Big Boo!seum Bash, Witt Stephens Jr. Nature Center, Little Rock, 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26: Fuller and Son Hardware (NLR), 9728 Maumelle Blvd, North Little Rock, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27: University of Arkansas District Wellness Fair, Donaghey Student Fitness Center, Little Rock, 9 p.m. to 1 p.m.
Lead in gasoline and paint has been banned in the United States since the 1970s, but lead exposure and poisoning is still a problem, especially for children. Exposure to lead can result in lead poisoning, which occurs when lead enters the bloodstream and builds up to toxic levels. The NLPPW theme, “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future,” underscores the importance of learning how to prevent lead poisoning’s serious health effects, testing your home, and testing your child. NLPPW focuses on the many ways parents can reduce children’s exposure to lead in their environment and prevent its serious health effects.
Childhood lead poisoning is considered to be the most preventable environmental disease among young children; yet, approximately half a million children in the United States have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter, the level at which the CDC says public health actions should start. In 2017, there were 161 children in Arkansas reported to have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per deciliter.
Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Below are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:
1. Get the Facts: Find out about the hazards of lead. The Arkansas Department of Health (ADH) can provide you with helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact them at 501-671-1472 or review the ADH Lead-Based Paint Program website here.
2. Get Your Home Tested: Find out how to minimize risks of lead exposure by hiring a certified professional to test older homes for lead. Water pipes in some older homes may contain lead solder where lead may leach out into the water. Learn more about lead in drinking water here.
3. Get Your Child Tested: A simple blood test can detect lead. Consult your doctor for advice on testing your children.
Lead is toxic to the human body. In particular, children six years old and younger are more vulnerable to lead poisoning than adults because their brains and spinal cords still developing, and effects on early childhood development can be severe. Even in small amounts, lead can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, learning and behavior problems, slow growth and development, as well as hearing and speech problems. Some of these effects may persist beyond childhood. For pregnant women, harmful effects include premature births, smaller babies, and miscarriage. There is no safe level of lead exposure.
“Prevention of lead exposure is key,” says Dr. Dirk Haselow, State Epidemiologist at the Arkansas Department of Health. “Unfortunately, the effects of lead exposure in a young child can be devastating and lifelong.”
Children with high blood lead levels were most likely exposed to lead in their own homes from leaded dust and lead-based paint chips, especially if that home was built before 1978. Children can also be exposed to lead from additional sources, including contaminated drinking water, take-home exposures from a workplace, and lead in soil. According to the CDC, at least 3.6 million households have children under 6 years of age living in them who are being exposed to lead exposure hazards. Despite the continued presence of lead in the environment, lead poisoning is entirely preventable. A simple blood test may be able to help prevent permanent damage from occurring.
The only way to fully rid a pre-1978 home of lead is to abate it. Abatement should always be done by a state-certified contractor. Abatement involves: the removal of lead-based paint and dust-lead hazards; the permanent covering or encapsulation of lead-based paint; the replacement of parts or fixtures painted with lead-based paint; and the removal or permanent covering of soil-lead hazards, as well as all set-up, cleanup, disposal, and post abatement clearance testing actions linked to such measures.
An owner of a home built prior to 1978, who does not wish to fully abate lead hazards, should be careful when disturbing lead-based paint. Homeowners should only hire federally-certified Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) contractors, to make sure that the work is done in a lead-safe way. This protects people to live in the home from hazards connected with renovation, repair and painting. Done in the wrong way, these activities can create harmful leaded dust when lead paint is disturbed.
Steps that your family can take to reduce exposure include the following:
· Wash your child’s hands before meals and after playing outside.
· Provide your child with meals and snacks that are high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C.
· Frequently wash toys, pacifiers and other items your child uses regularly.
· Dust and wet mop weekly.
· Have your family members leave their shoes outside the door.
· Ensure that any home renovation and maintenance work is done in a lead-safe way.
For more information, contact the Lead-Based Paint Program at 501-671-1472 or contact the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD.