Childhood Lead Poisoning
Lead poisoning remains a significant health threat to children, even though lead was banned from use in house paint and gasoline more than 40 years ago.
Where Lead is Found
Lead can be found in many places in and around the home. Homes built before 1978 are most at risk for sources of lead exposure.
Peeling and cracking lead-based paint in homes that creates dust easily swallowed or inhaled is often a source of exposure. Soil contaminated from leaded gasoline or exterior lead paint can also be a source. Lead pipes or solder in older homes can sometimes contaminate water. Other sources around homes could include toys, jewelry and imported candies or home remedies.
What Lead Does
Children with elevated lead levels may look and act healthy. But lead hurts the brain and nervous system, causing serious and sometimes lifelong health problems.
Some common symptoms of lead poisoning include:
- Difficulty sleeping
- Loss of appetite
- Speech and language delays
- Learning and developmental difficulties
- Behavior issues like hyperactivity, aggressiveness and irritability
The only sure way to detect lead poisoning is with a blood test since many children have no symptoms. Health care providers in Indiana are required to offer lead testing for children. Ask your doctor or health care provider or contact the Department at 260.449.8600 for information about having your child tested for lead poisoning. The Department can also provide information on how to test your home for lead.
'A little caution can go a long way'
There is no safe amount of lead exposure. But there are ways to minimize additional exposures if your child has high lead test results.
Keep it clean
- Wipe down windowsills and wells with cleaner and warm water
- Sweep and mop floors weekly
- Wash your children's hands often, especially before meals and bedtime
- Wash toys, bottles and pacifiers regularly
- If your job exposes you to lead, change at work and wash work clothes separately
- Remove shoes when entering your home
Other prevention measures
- Keep non-food items like keys, jewelry and toys out of children's mouths
- Avoid cultural remedies and foreign spices
- Cover exposed dirt with mulch or grass
- Use cold water for cooking and drinking
- Let water run for a least four minutes when it has been off for several hours
- Feed your child healthy foods high in calcium, iron and vitamin C
Leave it to professionals
- Contact your child's doctor or the Department about lead screening
- Hire lead-trained professionals for painting repairs in homes built before 1978
Is My Child at Risk?
If you have a child between the ages of 6 months and 6 years, you should answer the lead risk questionnaire below. If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then you should consider having your child screened for lead poisoning.
- Does the child live or regularly visit a ZIP code determined to be at high risk for lead poisoning in Allen County? (46802, 46803, 46806, 46807 or 46808)
- Does your child live in or regularly visit a home or daycare center built before 1978?
- Does the child have a sibling or playmate with a high level of lead?
- Does your child live with an adult whose job or hobby involves exposure to lead? (Including auto, boat and home repairs, furniture refinishing, firing ranges, or casting lead fishing sinkers)
- Has your child visited or lived in a country where the use of lead in consumer products is not restricted?
- Does your family use imported ceramics, cosmetics, medications, spices or traditional remedies?
- Does your child have medical conditions consistent with lead poisoning? (Including developmental or speech delays, anemia, hyperactivity, loss of appetite and irritability)
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, consider having your child screened for lead poisoning. Lead screening is available at the Department of Health’s Medical Annex, 4813 New Haven Ave., Fort Wayne, IN 46803. The Annex is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to noon and 1 to 4:30 p.m. except on holidays observed by Allen County Government. To schedule an appointment to have your child(dren) tested, call 260.449.7504 during normal business hours.