Lead is a toxic metal which can affect a number of the body’s organs most particularly in babies or young children. And although lead poisoning is entirely preventable, there is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe. It is used in many products we use in our everyday life, for example heavy metals, jewelry, cosmetics, paints, toys and even traditional medicines. Drinking water delivered through old pipes in old homes or old buildings can be a source of lead too.
Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones, young children are particularly vulnerable to its toxic effects and may suffer permanent adverse health effects.
How Lead Gets Into a Child’s Body
Lead can enter your child’s body by inhaling lead dust, eating soil or paint chips that contain lead, and drinking contaminated water. Lead-based paint in or around their home or another building they spend time in. Pregnant women with elevated levels of lead in their blood can transfer lead to their unborn baby.
Sources of Lead
Old furniture, playground equipment, and toys painted or varnished with a lead-based product, old vinyl flooring and mini blinds, brass keys, lead crystal glassware and lead-glazed ceramics and china, some toy jewelry, imported food in cans sealed with lead solder, old batteries, some hobby materials, some makeup and folk remedies, which are used to treat various illnesses.
How to Tell if Your Child Has Lead Poisoning
Children don’t usually show any symptoms. So parents must be vigilant to look out for these symptoms: fatigue or hyperactivity, irritability, aggressive behavior, reduced attention span, developmental delay, difficulty sleeping, anemia, abdominal pain, loss of appetite, weight loss, constipation, vomiting, headache, problems with balance and motor control.
A simple blood test though will determine the level of lead in the body.
Health effects of lead poisoning on children
Lead has had serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death.
Mental retardation and behavioural disruption, reduced intelligence quotient (IQ), behavioural changes such as shortening of attention span, increased antisocial behaviour, and reduced educational attainment, are some of the effects on children who survived severe lead poisoning. Lead exposure also causes anaemia, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity and toxicity to the reproductive organs.
How to Protect Your Child from Lead Exposure
Teach your child how to wash his hands properly. At least 20 seconds to remove lead particles. And to wash hands several times a day, especially after playing outside and before eating a meal or snack. Keep your home clean. Make sure that your child’s crib or bed, playpen, and toys don’t have any peeling paint. Wash toys regularly. Don’t let your child play in the dirt. Identify and eliminate any potential sources of lead in your home. Make sure he eats well. Test your tap water and take steps to eliminate lead if necessary.