Learn More During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 

SPOKANE, WA – Lead poisoning is a preventable environmental disease, which affects an estimated 310,000 children in the United States. Children with lead poisoning may suffer from hyperactivity, aggressive behavior, learning disabilities, lowered IQ, speech delay and hearing impairment. 

The Spokane Regional Health District joins the Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in promoting National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week October 19-25. Lead Poisoning Prevention Week encourages parents to learn about lead poisoning so they can recognize potential sources and protect their children. 

Lead is a toxic metal that was used for many years in products found in and around our homes. Over the past 30 years, the U.S. has banned lead from products such as gasoline, pipes and paint. Even though lead is no longer used in home construction, many older homes have lead in paint and water piping that can pose a health risk to children living in them. An estimated 38 million homes in the U.S. still contain some lead paint on areas such as walls, woodwork, porches, siding, windows and doors. This lead becomes dangerous as the paint wears or is disturbed by renovations, creating lead dust. Contaminated dust is the major source of lead for most children. While lead paint that is intact is generally not a concern, paint that is peeling or chipping can create a hazard. 

Children six years old and younger are at most risk for lead poisoning. This is because they often put their hands and other objects in their mouths which may have lead dust on them. Their growing bodies absorb more lead, and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. 

If not detected early, health effects in children can include behavioral and learning problems, attention deficit disorders, slowed growth, headaches, kidney damage, impaired hearing, and damage to the brain and nervous system. To prevent exposure, it's important that lead sources in the home and child care settings are identified and removed before children begin crawling around. 

Other sources of lead still found in our environment include: 

  • Drinking water – older homes (especially those built before 1930) may have lead plumbing pipes or lead solder. If you think your home plumbing has lead, use only cold water for drinking and cooking and run the water for 30 seconds before drinking. You can also take water samples to a local lab for a lead analysis. 
  • Soil – lead-based paint can peel off the outside of the house and get into the soil. Encourage your children to play in sand or grassy areas and try to keep them from eating dirt. Make sure they wash their hands before they come inside.

Occupations – some jobs may leave lead dust on clothing such as construction, demolition, painting, mining, and working with batteries or in a radiator repair shop. If you work with lead, change your clothes before going home. Wash your hands before eating, drinking, or smoking.

  • Hobbies – some hobbies use lead such as making pottery, stained glass, sinkers, bullets, or refinishing furniture. If you have hobbies involving lead, change your clothes before going home. Wash your hands before eating, drinking, or smoking. 
  • Pottery – avoid eating or storing foods in lead crystal or lead-glazed pottery or porcelain. 
  • Folk Remedies – Avoid remedies containing lead, such as "greta" and "azarcon" which are used to treat an upset stomach. 
  • Imported items - some imported candies, toys, toy jewelry, and cosmetics contain lead. Check the Consumer Product Safety Commission for recall updates and remove any of those items from your home.

The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. If you live in a home built or remodeled before 1978 with peeling or chipping paint, or if you suspect exposure to other sources of lead, talk to your doctor about a blood lead test for your child (important for children between the ages of 12 and 24 months; and children between the ages of 36-72 months of age who have not previously been tested).

In addition, homeowners who reside in homes built before 1978 may also: 

  • Damp mop floors, damp-wipe surfaces, and frequently wash a child's hands, pacifiers and toys to minimize exposure to lead; 
  • Take precautions when remodeling an older home to reduce exposure to harmful lead dust; 
  • Ensure your children have a diet high in iron and calcium, this will reduce the amount of lead their body takes in; 
  • Keep children from chewing on window sills or other painted surfaces; and 
  • Clean up paint chips immediately both inside and outside the house. For more information on lead, please call the National Lead Information Center at 1-800-424-LEAD or visit www.epa.gov/lead.

Media Contact: Julie Graham| 324-1539 JGraham@spokanecounty.org