When your child has elevated lead readings – Treating lead exposure

Treating lead exposure

Could you please tell me more about elevated lead readings? My son is 4-years-old and has a reading of 15. My doctor doesn’t show any concern over this level. Should this really not be a concern unless the level is over 40? And at that point should it be treated with medicine? I have read the brochures about lead and it can be a little frightening to a parent. I thank you for your time and advice.

Lead based paint was used until the late 1970’s, though it was used less often after the mid-1960’s. It is important to remember that remodeling a building does not always eliminate the risk for exposure. Some forms of pottery and older dishware also contain lead and, if not properly glazed, should not be used for eating or preparing food. If children are around adults with certain hobbies associated with lead, such as making stained glass windows with lead solder, they may have high lead levels.

Recognizing exposure to lead in children is important since at low doses it causes anemia that deprives the still developing brain of needed oxygen. Other problems that occur with continued lead exposure are developmental delays, learning disabilities, poor growth, vomiting and, at high levels, seizures. Pregnant women should also be cautious about exposing their baby to these risks. Children with any of these risk factors should be screened at least yearly beginning at around nine months of age. Many screening tests are done with a “finger stick.” Levels above 10 should be confirmed with a blood sample taken from a vein. Children with lead levels over 10 should be checked every six months until it decreases to normal. Medication can be used to remove lead from the body, but this is not often necessary until a level of 30.

At low levels, between 10 and 20, you should encourage a fatty diet and give your son a diet rich in iron. Talk with your doctor about an iron supplement to assure a proper dose. Most importantly, identify the sources of lead in your home. There are test kits available, but it is best to contact your state Department of Environmental Resources since they will have equipment to help identify lead paint underneath the surface coat or if there is lead in the dust in and around the home from prior renovations. Most importantly, they will guide you in removing or reducing risk of ingesting lead.

Around the home, be sure there is no peeling paint or uneven painted surfaces that will be at risk for peeling. Wipe all painted surfaces routinely with a damp cloth and damp mop floors. Be aware that vacuuming can lift lead dust particles into the air so they can be inhaled, so it may be helpful to use a vacuum with a HEPA filter. Be sure that any renovations are done by someone certified in lead removal, since improper removal can contaminate the home.

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