In Kansas, nearly 150 children age 1 to 6 are newly poisoned by lead each year. National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is Oct. 21-27, and Safe Kids Kansas and the Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Prevention Program want parents to understand the danger that lead poses to young children and what they can do to ensure their family is safe.
Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the main sources of exposure for lead in U.S. children. Though lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978, all houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. In Kansas, more than 50 percent of our homes were built prior to 1978 and are likely to have lead-based paint on surfaces in or on the structures. Many of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children. It is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem.
“All children under the age of 6 are at risk because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths,” said Cherie Sage, Safe Kids Kansas. However, children living at or below the poverty line who live in older housing are at greatest risk. In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise. Additionally, children of some racial and ethnic groups and those living in older housing are disproportionately affected by lead.
“Once a person is lead poisoned they will suffer long-term effects that could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars in their lifetime,” said Tom Langer, Director of the Bureau of Environmental Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. “The good news is that while lead poisoning remains the largest environmental health problem in Kansas, it is 100 percent preventable.”
- Get kids tested. Pediatricians and local health departments can test children’s blood to measure lead levels. They can also provide advice on how to test homes, yards and gardens for lead.
- Wash up. Children are often exposed to lead from putting dirty toys or hands in their mouths.
- Create barriers. Keep children away from lead chipping paint on walls and windowsills. Also use contact paper or duct tape to cover holes in walls or block access to other sources of lead.
- Wash floors and windows regularly. Floors and windows hold house dust, which is a major source of lead in the home.
- Eat well. Good nutrition can protect children from the effects of lead exposure through less absorption.
- Avoid bare soil. Soil can contain lead from paint, leaded gasoline and factory emissions. Plant grass or invest in a sandbox so children are not directly playing in the dirt.
For more information on lead and other home hazards, contact the Kansas Healthy Homes and Lead Poison Prevention Program at 866-865-3233, www.kshealthyhomes.org, or Safe Kids Kansas at 785-296-0351, www.safekidskansas.org.