Lead poisoning is a public health issue that has affected people tremendously since the Industrial Revolution. Many people, specifically children, face lead-filled dangers daily. During National Lead Poison Prevention Week (Oct. 22-28), it is important to highlight the facts about lead poisoning and its preventable dangers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 500,000 children in the United States have blood lead levels that are above the CDC’s blood level reference value. Lead poisoning is disproportionately prevalent among low-income children and children of color.
Lead poisoning can occur when a child is exposed to lead dust or lead-contaminated objects. Lead dust can come from lead-based paint, commonly used in homes built before 1978. Moreover, lead dust can come from other origins, such as lead-contaminated soil, water and air.
Education Chair of the Greater Indianapolis Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) Garry Holland recently discussed the dangers of lead poisoning and need to increase public understanding of these with the Recorder.
“We are producing video shorts with local leaders and community stakeholders on the importance of young children getting tested for lead,” Holland said.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), Black and Hispanic children are two to three times more likely than their white counterparts to have elevated blood lead levels.
Holland noted the role HB1313 – a bill that would require health care providers who provide health care services to a child who is less than six years of age to take certain actions concerning a blood lead screening test – could play in combating lead poisoning.
“It is important that legislators [recognize] that lead has a toxic effect on a young child’s developing brain,” Holland said. “This bill will help this generation of young children have a better chance of living without mental health conditions that disrupt their learning capacity.”
Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning because their bodies are still developing. Lead can cross the blood-brain barrier and damage the developing brain, leading to several long-term health problems. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), children living in poverty are four times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels than children living in families with higher incomes. This means that low-income children are at an increased risk of lead poisoning.
There is no safe level of lead exposure for children, but there are a few steps that can be taken to prevent lead poisoning. These include getting children tested for lead poisoning at 12 and 24 months of age, making sure that children live in lead-safe housing (homes built before 1978 will require the removal of lead-based paints), regular handwashing and testing for lead in playthings, and ultimately avoiding lead-contaminated soil, water and air.
The Greater Indiana Chapter of NAACP, The Indiana Department of Health and the Hoosier Environmental Coalition are working together to provide information about the dangers of lead poisoning, how to prevent it and where to get tested. Additionally, they offer free lead testing to children under six who live in a high-risk area.
Lead poisoning is preventable. By taking the necessary steps, parents and caregivers can help reduce children’s exposure to lead.
“Be aware and educate yourself on the many ways in which one can be exposed to lead,” Holland said. “Your life and your [child’s life] depend on it.”
To learn more about lead poisoning prevention or to find a lead testing site near you, contact the Indiana Department of Health Lead and Healthy Home Division at 800-382-9480.
Contact multi-media staff writer Noral Parham III at 317-762-7846. Follow him on Twitter @3Noral. For more news courtesy of the Indianapolis Recorder, click here. You can also visit the Indiana Minority Business Magazine by clicking here.