It's hard to believe that in this day and age that lead poisoning is still a big problem for children living in the United States. But it definitely is. In fact, according to the New York Daily News, more than a half million children in the U.S. have high levels of lead in their systems. And -- as parents in Flint, Michigan, recently discovered -- lead can turn up suddenly and sometimes in unexpected sources. In that town, lead poisoning became an issue after officials decided to use highly corrosive water from the Flint River, which eroded Flint's pipes -- some of which were made of lead. Unfortunately, that lead then leached into the town's water supply. Toys made in other countries can be another source of lead. In 2007, for example, Mattel had to recall more than 950,000 toys that had been painted with lead paint. Still other children are exposed to lead when they move into houses that were built before 1978 when lead-based paints were commonly used.
Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children
Lead poisoning can be hard to detect. You may not, in fact, notice anything particularly wrong with your children until dangerous levels have already accumulated in their systems. At that point, you may note the following symptoms:
- Difficulty in school. Your child may develop learning disabilities or have speech or language problems. It's possible they may also experience some memory loss.
- Pain in the extremities, joints and muscles. Lead poisoning can also cause numbness and tingling in a child's limbs.
- Irritability. Some children also have difficulty sleeping or experience headaches.
- Being tired. Your child may appear sluggish or be tired all the time.
- Abdominal pain and cramping. Lead poisoning could also cause your child to be constipated, and some children also lose their appetites.
What You Should Do if Your Child has been Exposed to Lead
If you learn that your children have been exposed to lead or believe that they are displaying the symptoms listed above, you should take your child into a pediatrician immediately. Testing for lead poisoning is simple and requires nothing more than a prick of the finger or a blood draw so that the doctor can take a look at your child's blood. If tests reveal that your child has a dangerous level of lead in their system, your doctors will recommend that you:
- Discover the source of the lead poisoning and then have it removed or -- if that's not possible -- keep your child away from the source of the contamination. In some cases, such as in Flint, parents knew where the lead was coming from and could stop their children from drinking the water. In other cases, you may have to look through your children's toys or have your home checked for items that you suspect may contain lead.
- Have your child treated with chelation therapy. With this treatment, your child will be given a type of medication that will bind with the lead in their system. It will then be eliminated from their bodies through their urine.
Although lead poisoning is not as common as it was during the 1970s, when it was still being used in paint and in gasoline, some children are still being exposed to dangerous amounts of this toxic substance. In fact, approximately 310,000 children in the United States who are younger than five years of age are discovered to have high levels of lead in their blood each year. So if you suspect that your child may have been exposed to lead, it is important to have your children looked at by a pediatrician at a clinic like Entira Family Clinics as soon as possible.