The last week of October was marked as the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. This may serve as a good reminder for Americans — especially those who have small children — of the ways in which they can protect their families from the severe consequences of lead exposure.
Experts say that exposure of infants and small children to high levels of lead, which is commonly found in paints used in buildings built before 1978, may lead to neurological problems, delayed development, and, in the most extreme cases, may even endanger their survival.
Richard Geller, M.D., executive medical director for the California Poison Control System, said that protection begins with nutrition. Children whose diets are rich in iron and calcium absorb less lead from the environment.
However, parents should also take other protective measures and report to the landlord if the paint in older buildings is chipping or cracking. Until it is removed, the peeling surface should be covered with duct tape.
When cooking or preparing infant formula, it is a good idea to run the cold water tap for a few minutes, which helps flush out any lead that can accumulate in sitting water. Moreover, individuals should not consume foods canned outside the United States or imported folk medicines, especially from Asia or the Middle East.
Finally, Geller warns that certain candy and children's jewelry items such as necklaces, bracelets and religious jewelry produced in Mexico have been found to contain lead, and should therefore be avoided. In general, parents and caregivers of small children should also discourage them from chewing on painted toy surfaces.