Health Lead

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

Does Your Pediatrician Screen for Lead Poisoning?

We recently heard from a mom in the Long Island area, who lives in a home with deteriorating paint built in the 1950’s, questioning the necessity of testing her two young children for lead poisoning. She thought doctors did it automatically, but was concerned and confused when her pediatrician said that she didn’t have to worry about lead poisoning “unless her children were allergic to lead” – even though he knew she lived in an older home that was not in good condition. Yes, we are serious. The doctor actually said this!

EVERYONE CAN BE HARMED BY LEAD PAINT! Clearly, not every doctor knows the dangers of lead paint, therefore it is up to us to make sure parents, neighbors, and friends understand the serious consequences of lead poisoning, and how to prevent it.

Not Every Pediatrician Screens for Lead

In some states, lead screening for children under the age of three is mandatory. But in most, it is left at the discretion of the pediatrician. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, testing for lead poisoning often depends on where you live. Check out these statistics:

• 53% of pediatricians attempt to screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months with a blood test for lead toxicity, 38% attempt to screen SOME of their patients, while 9% screen NONE of their patients in this age group.

• Screening practices vary by practice location: 83% of inner city pediatricians screen ALL of their patients under the age of 36 months for lead poisoning, compared to 39% of suburban and 43% of rural pediatricians.

• Overall, pediatricians report screening an average of 52% of their patients ages 9-12 months, 48% of their patients that are 13-14 months old, and 37% of their patients that are 25-36 months old.

• 98% of pediatricians who selectively screen patients under the age of 36 months report do so at the parents’ request.

The best way for you to know if your child has been tested for lead poisoning is to ask your pediatrician. If your doctor does not automatically test for lead, ask that it be done. It’s a simple blood test and could save your child’s life. More importantly, have your home tested to prevent the risks early. For more information about lead dust, click here.


Toxins In Toys

Toxins In Toys

’Tis the season to be careful about toy safety — or risk buying toys containing lead contaminants. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a holiday alert about the potential lead hazards in toys and products used by children.


A New Take on Lead Testing

Most doctors say a blood test is the only way to determine lead poisoning. That’s partially true. Actually, the biological half-life of lead in the blood is about 36 days, which means that a blood test is only an indicator of the extent of recent lead exposure. According to the Bone Lead Measurement Facility at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, blood-lead levels – the standard for determining lead poisoning in this country – reflect chronic exposure only if exposure is constant.

Consider this scenario: You lived in a home or apartment that was built before 1978 and were unknowingly poisoned by the lead dust created by the home’s lead paint. A year later you move to a newly built home, hear about toxic lead dust, and decide to have your blood lead levels tested. Chances are your blood lead levels will fall below levels of concern.

But you are still being poisoned because, according to Mount Sinai, the lead has traveled, hiding in your bones and teeth where it has a long half-life of 20 to 30 years. Even more disturbing is that in times of physiologic stress, including pregnancy and lactation, the stored lead in your bones and teeth can travel back to your blood and affect your unborn child or infant.

Why should you care? Lead poisoning is a major public health problem in the United States, claiming victims from all walks of life, not only the inner city. In children, lead poisoning causes brain damage, ADD/ADHD, autism-like symptoms, loss of IQ, increased tendency to violence, nervous system and kidney damage, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, speech and language problems, and as children age, delinquent and antisocial behavior. In men, lead poisoning causes decreased sex drive, sterility, and impotence; and in women, decreased fertility, the ability to sustain pregnancy, stillbirth, miscarriage, low-birth weight and pre-term delivery.

Eileen E. Brinker, an artist from Utah, detailed her lead poisoning ordeal in her blog, “from an otherwise sane perspective.” Brinker recently discovered she was poisoned by lead, which happened years ago when she worked for a real estate firm and spent her days sanding lead-based paint in the company’s rentals. Her list of medical issues include rotting teeth, headaches, and bouts of mental illness throughout her life

So what to do? The first line of defense is to have your pre-1978 built home tested for lead paint by a certified environmental testing company. Once you know where lead is hiding, you can take corrective steps to rid your home of lead. Next, schedule a blood test, especially if your lead exposure is recent. For long-term lead exposure testing, the bone lead X-ray fluorescence test at Mount Sinai is the only option available now, a relatively new technique for measuring long-term lead exposure.


Nigerian Lead Disaster Comes Home

The headlines out of northern Nigeria scream: Since March 2010, 400 children dead, poisoned by lead dust, and thousands more in need of immediate medical attention because of lead poisoning.

The source of the lead dust is the area’s gold mines. Ore-crushing techniques are releasing contaminated lead dust into the air, and these toxic lead particles are clinging to clothing and buildings, and infiltrating water supplies.

The international watchdog Human Rights Watch said last week that this is the worst lead poisoning epidemic in modern history. Although clean-up efforts have taken place in some areas, and charities such as Doctors Without Borders have been treating victims, Human Rights Watch says more urgent work needs to be done. It estimates that will cost $4 million to clean up the toxic lead and secure the gold mines.

The Nigerian tragedy should alert everyone to the danger of lead dust poisoning, not just abroad but right here at home. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 500,000 children under the age of six are poisoned by lead dust in the United States each year. Lead poisoning causes irreversible brain damage in children.

What’s more, a new federal report from an advisory committee of the CDC debunks the myth that lead poisoning affects only the poor. The report states that the adverse health effects of blood poisoning “do not appear to be confined to lower socioeconomic status populations.” That should be a wake-up call for all homeowners, especially those living in the Northeast, where twice as many homes have lead hazards than housing in the South and West.

Consider Westchester County, New York, which has, according to the County Department of Planning, 368,498 housing units. Of these, 307,693, or 80 percent, were built prior to 1980 – and it’s safe to assume most of these homes contain lead paint. Although lead was banned from paint manufacture in 1978, surplus lead-based paint was still on the market years after 1978. In addition, marine varnish is still manufactured with lead, and many homeowners use marine varnish in their homes because they think it is more durable than interior varnish.

Only education, testing and remediation will prevent lead poisoning. RTK Environmental Group’s educational campaign, Bust Lead Dust , was created to increase public awareness of the threat that lurks within their homes. Our goal is to prevent more children from the senseless exposure to an unnecessary health risk. Please join our campaign.

Flooding & Water Damage Lead Soil and Water

Eat your way to health

Eat your way to health

We really are what we eat. Although nutrition cannot prevent young children from being poisoned by lead, certain foods can keep lead from being absorbed by the body.

Before we get to the food, it’s important to remember that more than 500,000 children each year are poisoned by lead, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and they span all economic groups. The only way to truly keep your children safe is to have your pre-1978 built home tested for lead. (Lead was banned from paint in 1978.) Hire only a licensed lead inspector to do the testing. In addition, have your children’s blood tested for lead poisoning.

Lead poisoning causes irreparable brain damage in children younger than seven. And although lead has been poisoning children for decades, it is not an old issue: It is here, it is now, and until every pre-1978 home or apartment has had all the lead removed, it is here to stay.

In the meantime, if you live in a pre-1978 build home, make sure your children’s diets are rich in:

Calcium keeps lead from being absorbed in the body. In addition, it helps make teeth and bones strong. Foods to include: low-fat milk, yogurt, tofu, cheese; foods made with milk (pudding, macaroni and cheese, pizza, cream soup); and green leafy vegetables (collards, spinach, kale, mustard greens, broccoli).

Iron also helps keep lead from being absorbed by the body. Foods to include: lean meats (beef, chicken, pork, goat); fish (sardines, tuna); cereals (Cream of Wheat, cereal with added iron, Infant cereal with added iron); beans (kidney, black); peanut butter; and dried fruits (raisins, dates, prunes).

Vitamin C helps iron do its lead-absorbing job. Foods to include: oranges, grapefruit, mangos, green peppers, tomatoes; and juices (orange, grapefruit, tomato).

Not only will these lead-blocking foods fight lead poisoning, your children will receive many other health benefits as well.


Bust Lead Dust!

A federal advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that the level of acceptable blood lead levels (BLL) in children be lowered from 10 ug/dl to 5 ug/dl. By lowering the level just 5 ug/dls, the official count of children poisoned by lead each year leaps from 250,000 to 450,000 — a stunning statistic.

Why is this so important? It demonstrates that we as a country have not been diligent enough in the fight against lead poisoning. The committee’s report proves that children with BLLs as low as 5 ug/dls suffer from behavioral problems, including ADD/ADHD, in addition to lower IQs, which affect academic achievement. In addition, the committee reports that the adverse health effects of low-level BLLs extend beyond cognitive function to include cardiovascular, immunological, and endocrine impairment.

The committee recommends that primary lead poisoning prevention must start in the pediatrician’s office, beginning with counseling and environmental assessments. Damage caused by lead poisoning is irreversible, so if there is any chance a house or apartment ever had lead paint on its walls it should be tested immediately, and the children who live in the house should be tested for lead. The committee is also recommending that if a child has an elevated BLL, he or she immediately be placed on a diet high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.

The committee also recommends that lead poisoning prevention education be extended to pregnant women, so they understand the importance of living in a lead-free environment. Even unborn children can be poisoned by lead.

Lead was banned as an additive to paint in 1978, but it’s safe to assume that most homes built before 1978 still contain lead-based paint. Even if layers of non-leaded paint are covering the lead-based paint, children can still be poisoned from the dust generated each time a window or door is opened or closed. Additionally, marine varnish is still manufactured with lead as an additive, and many homeowners use this varnish in their homes because they think it wears better than interior varnishes.

The goal of primary lead poisoning prevention is to ensure that all homes become lead free. That means that every home built before 1978 must be tested for lead paint, because testing is the only way to determine if remnants of lead-based paint still exist. The CDC’s Healthy People 2010 initiative has set a 10-year goal to end childhood lead poisoning. Only eight years left to make that goal. So many homes to test. So many children to test.

To help spread the word, Bust Lead Dust — — is an educational campaign to educate the public about the dangers of lead dust poisoning. This blog is written by RTK Environmental Group, sponsors of the Bust Lead Dust campaign.

Our next post will discuss the diet every lead-poisoned child should be eating.



National call to test homes for lead!

There’s a renewed effort in the United States to have every home built before 1978 tested for lead.

The interest stems from a recently released report from an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that stresses the importance of preventing children from living in homes with possible lead hazards. The committee says there is no such thing as an acceptable level of lead in the blood of children, and that testing a child for lead poisoning — although important — is often too late to reverse the damage. Any amount of lead in the blood can cause irreparable harm to a child, including autism-like symptoms, ADD/ADHD, tendency to violence, poor motor skills, and lowered IQs.

The committee writes in the report: “Prevention requires that we reduce environmental exposures from soil, dust, paint and water, before children are exposed to these hazards.”

The committee also emphasizes that although low-income children are poisoned more frequently by lead than other children, lead poisoning spans all socio-economic strata. Even in middle- and high-income homes, where there are no signs of peeling paint, children are still poisoned by lead dust.

Need more convincing? A recent study conducted by the Tulane School of Public Health discovered nearly two-thirds of all New Orleans homes contain dangerous levels of lead. The study found the presence of lead in homes in all neighborhoods, without regard for race or income. Clearly, lead problems are not confined to urban homes.

Bottom line: If you live in a home built before 1978, when lead paint was banned for residential use, have your home tested for lead. According to the CDC, a speck of lead dust, as small as a grain of sand, can poison a child. Simply opening or closing a window or door can send lead dust flying through the air. And any renovation, from a simple painting job to a major home overhaul, requires the services of tradesman and contractors certified in lead-safe work practices under the EPA’s Renovation, Repair & Painting Rule.

The Tulane study blames reckless renovation and disregard of lead-safe work practices in repairing and demolishing homes after Hurricane Katrina for the amount of lead found in homes throughout New Orleans.

Bust Lead Dust is a campaign designed to educate the public about the dangers of lead dust poisoning. It is chockfull of important information every person living in a pre-1978 built home or apartment needs to read.

Our next post will discuss the CDC advisory committee’s recommendations to lower blood lead levels in children.



How much lead dust is too much?

A speck of lead dust as small as a grain of sand is enough to poison a child, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But is the CDC too lenient in its standard for the level of lead allowed in the blood?


Toxic Tannenbaum

Many people buy artificial Christmas trees to avoid the mess of dropped needles spread throughout their homes. Unfortunately, that pristine artificial tree could be spreading something you can’t see: toxic lead dust.

Health Lead

Angry? Restless? Lead Poisoning Could Be The Problem.

Adults often downplay the harmful effect of exposing children to lead in the home, especially those adults who grew up in a home or apartment built before 1978, the year lead paint was banned from residential use in the United States. They say: “Look at me. I’m fine. And I grew up when paint always contained lead.”