boy in pink crew neck top with paints on his hands and face

Signs Your Child Might Have Lead Poisoning

May 19, 2022


Repeated exposure to items that contain high levels of lead, such as old lead-based paint, water, water pipes, soil, and even toys and candy imported from other countries can cause lead poisoning. Lead poisoning sometimes leads to significant health issues in children. Even low levels of lead exposure can cause problems. 

According to the CDC, an estimated 535,000 U.S. children ages 1-5 years have blood lead levels known to damage health. Blood levels as low as five mcg/dL may cause permanent cognitive, neurological, emotional, and behavioural problems. Lead exposure can even harm babies before they are born.

Lead-based paint is a particular problem. Lawmakers outlawed the use of lead-based paint in the mid-1970s. Still, it’s safe to assume that homes built before 1978 might contain lead-based paint products. About 29 million homes in the U.S. have deteriorated lead-based paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. About 2.6 million of these homes house one or more young children. Toddlers are especially susceptible because they play on the floor and regularly put their hands in their mouths. During hand-to-mouth contact, a toddler may potentially ingest lead dust and paint chips in sufficient quantities to cause lead poisoning.

Signs Your Child Might Have Lead Poisoning | a kid with multicoloured hand paint

Symptoms of Lead Poisoning in Children

Lead poisoning can occur well before your child shows symptoms. Even children who seem healthy might have high levels of lead in their bodies. For this reason, if you believe your child was exposed to lead, you should speak with your paediatrician. Your paediatrician will have your child’s blood tested. According to Riley | Ersoff LLP, blood tests are the only way to determine if your child has lead poisoning. However, symptoms of lead poisoning to watch out for include:  

  • Premature birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Slow or delayed growth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abdominal pain
  • Constipation
  • Learning delays
  • Irritability
  • Abdominal pain
  • Vomiting
  • Hearing loss
  • Seizures

Lead poisoning symptoms may present like other conditions or medical problems. Always talk with your child’s healthcare provider for a proper diagnosis.

Signs Your Child Might Have Lead Poisoning | person making clay figures

Ways to Prevent Lead Poisoning

The great news is that you can prevent lead poisoning. The first step is to ensure your pre-1978 home or apartment is free from flaking, peeling, chipping, or chalking paint. In addition, you should:

  • Wipe your feet and remove your shoes before walking inside your home;
  • Wash your child’s hands and face before meals;
  • Wash your child’s toys frequently;
  • Keep surfaces dust-free;
  • Wet-mop floors and window sills to reduce the spread of dust contaminated with lead;
  • Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking;
  • When using hot water, run cold water first to help remove lead in pipes;
  • Keep children from playing in dirt and soil (plant grass, cover soil with mulch, provide a sandbox, or designate a patio play area instead);
  • Don’t cook with or eat from old pans and tableware likely to contain lead;
  • Maintain vitamin C, calcium, and iron levels in your child’s diet to inhibit lead absorption;
  • Change your children’s clothes if you suspect they’ve been exposed to lead; and
  • Avoid folk medicine and certain foods and herbs that may contain lead.

Taking these and other basic precautions can help protect your children from lead exposure and any resulting harm.

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