Approximately 434,000 U.S. children aged 1-5 years have blood lead levels greater than the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommended level of 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood.
While lead poisoning often occurs with no telltale symptoms and frequently goes unrecognized, it can affect nearly every system in the body. Lead poisoning has been linked to learning disabilities and behavioral problems. When very high levels of lead are present in the blood, seizures, coma and even death can occur.
Many parents believe their children are safe from lead poisoning. However, this is just not true. Children under age six are at the highest risk because they are still growing and developing quite quickly, and because they are more likely to put their hands and other objects into their mouths.
In the US, the major source of lead exposure in children is from lead-based paint, as well as dust that has been contaminated with lead, often found in deteriorating buildings. In 1978, the US banned all use of lead-based paint in housing, but there are millions of older housing units where lead-based paint and lead-contaminated house dust are present.
Be very wary of things like old hand-me-down cribs and cradles, as if they are old enough, they could be painted with lead paint, and many babies and toddlers will chew on the crib railing.
Also, there have been numerous reported cases where the cheap metal toys and jewelry from coin-operated machines contain high amounts of lead. If your child chews on a necklace with lead, it can cause serious health issues. While these items are supposed to be lead-free, there have been cases where they contained deadly amounts of lead.
Other surprising sources of lead are found in some hobbies, such as in stain-glass windows, and some work, such as recycling or making automobile batteries. Lead can also be found in water, due to lead pipes, solder, brass valves and brass fixtures because they are can leech lead. Some popular home health remedies also contain lead, including arzacon, greta, and pay-loo-ah.
If you suspect you or your child may have lead poisoning, you should see your doctor to get tested, and learn the amount of lead (if any) is in your blood. Your doctor can then advise on your best course of action, based upon your results.