Sunday, August 26, 2018

Our Kids Are Exposed to Lead Every Day and We Could Have the Power to Stop it- Here is How

Did you know?

  • Reuters identified more than 3,300 U.S. neighborhood areas with documented childhood lead poisoning rates double those found in Flint.
  • In Los Angeles County:  Reuters identified 323 neighborhood areas where the rate of elevated lead tests in kids was at least as high as in Flint.

These included rich and poor neighborhoods.

Lead is still very much a problem affecting our children.  

Also dangerous?  California, and other states, do not require lead testing in young children- so many more children could have elevated lead blood levels and not know it. Have your children been tested for lead?


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s threshold for elevated lead is 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood. Children who test at or above that threshold warrant a public health response however, there’s no safe level of lead in children’s bodies.  Even a slight elevation in lead level (even below the CDC's threshold) can reduce IQ and stunt childhood development. “Lead can cause decreases in IQ, nervous system damage and behavioral changes...”  Academic achievement and the ability to pay attention are all affected -   and the effects of lead exposure cannot be reversed or corrected.

While lead exposure is bad for everyone, it has a defining effect on children under the age of 6, causing permanent learning disabilities and lower IQ. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  specifies that there is no safe blood lead level for children.
It is so serious that the Environmental Protection Agency goes as far as to state that “Every individual exposed to lead could mean one less child going to college or one more violent crime next door."

How are children exposed to lead? 
1- Old Paint: 
Lead-based paint in homes was outlawed in the United States in 1978; any home built pre 1978 will have lead paint.  Lead paint can gradually deteriorate into flakes, chips, and fine dust that's easily inhaled or eaten by small children, even when it's covered by many layers of unleaded paint.

While many children exposed to lead paint live in lower income decrepit housing, even upper class housing can have chipping paint.  In some U.S. areas, nearly a third of lead poisoning cases can be linked to home renovation projects, which can disturb lead paint under non leaded paint.   Lead migrates from the chipping paint to the dust on the floors and windowsills of homes. The dust gets on children’s  hands then into their mouths. 


2. Water:  
Older lead pipes are to blame for tainted drinking water.   At home and especially in public parks and schools, the issue of lead in drinking water is a nation wide one.  According to the EPA, as much as one-fifth of a child’s exposure to lead is from drinking water. The EPA also estimates that up to 60 percent of formula-fed infants’ lead exposure can come from water used to mix formula.  

A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund found that drinking water at more than half of the child care centers tested in four states had lead levels that could harm children’s health.

Even after Flint, most school districts still aren’t checking to see if there’s lead in their water; only California, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New Jersey and New York require public school systems to test (private schools and day care centers are not required).

WHAT YOU CAN DO: It is important to be informed about the quality of the water your child is drinking at home and at school.  

At home 
  • - Get your home water tested.  You can ask you local water company to perform a lead water test.   You can also purchase a home testing kit which might not be as sensitive but will at least tell you if there is lead present (I used 
  • - Consider purchasing a high quality water filtration system...   This is not only due to lead.  I wrote a more detail piece on why this might be the most important purchase for your home, and included the one we chose for our home and which other ones I recommend:
  • First Alert WT1 Drinking Water Test Kit

  • Drinking Water Test Kit - 10 Minute Testing For Lead Bacteria Pesticide Iron Copper and More

  • At school:  
    • - Ask your child’s school or district office for a copy of the most recent tests at the tap for drinking water. Many have the results online
    • - If you are declined and believe tests have been done, you can file a written Freedom of Information Act request to access public documents. 
    • - If there have not been any tests, ask your public school Board of Education or private school head and his/her board and your state health agency to conduct testing at the tap. 
    • - In the meantime, talk to your children and explain to them that it is important to take a water bottle with safe water from home to school.  

    3. Soil:  
    For years, when lead paint and gasoline were the norm,  the toxin migrated from paint and gasoline (and air) into the soil and over the years stayed put and accumulated there. Because lead is tightly bound to soil particles, lead toxicity is a legacy problem.

    During summertime, when hot and dry windy days move dust and dirt around while kids are playing outside , the nation actually sees an increase in lead exposure nationwide.  Foods that grow in contaminated lead (as we saw last week) are also contaminated with the neurotoxin.  

    • - Test your soil at home.   Ask if your local community or city has tested the soil at local parks and/or schools.  Cities including Detroit, New Orleans, and Indianapolis all have maps of levels of soil lead. Maps identify hotspots where problems can be addressed. 
    • - Take your shoes off upon entering your home. Shoes bring in soil, and other contaminants like pesticides, heavy metals etc, from the street

    4.  Pottery Dish Ware, ceramic  and crystal
    These items can exposing us to lead, as they are made with lead containing glazes and paints.   It is really hard to tell if an item has lead or does not contain it.   Some new ceramic artist will specify that their piece does not contain lead, however overall most do not specify.   According to some experts, pottery made overseas in China, India or Mexico are more likely to contain lead, however some made in the USA items - especially older heirloom pieces- have been found to have very high quantities of lead.

    Ceramic, as is the case with pottery, also can use lead based paints and glazes.  Colorful pieces and particularly the reds, oranges and yellows -- again, because they're more likely to contain lead and cadmium.  According to a in depth investigative series from the Chicago Tribune it is unlikely today to buy a lead tainted ceramic dinner ware from major retail stores however, the risk increases in local ethnic stores.  They specifically point to "Many of the Chinese traditional wares [with ornate traditional patterns such as "red long life"] are still a problem today [for lead]"  warning  consumers to avoid them.

    Crystal stemware might be very fancy however it can also expose you to lead. This doesn't mean you have to throw out your Christofle or Baccarat glasses, unless you live a very fancy life where you drink from these on a daily basis (or, if your pregnant I would also avoid).  A second look at your carafe might be smart;

    "Canadian government tests also found that the amount of lead released into a glass of wine in the time a meal can be eaten is well below the Canadian maximum allowable concentration of lead...

    However, there is a more than negligible danger when liquor, wine or other acidic liquids like fruit juice are stored in a lead crystal carafe or decanter. The lead released builds up over time and can reach 100 times the allowable level after weeks or months, Canadian researchers said. Therefore experts almost universally warn against using lead crystal for storing wine, liquor or any acidic beverage."

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