Lead poisoning is a hot topic in light of the water crisis in Flint, Mich., but parents need to be mindful of more than just their water supply. With Flint the obvious exception, city water is generally well-regulated and tested often. Lead paint in older homes is the most common source of lead poisoning in children. Homes built before 1950 or 1978 either had no lead paint regulations or regulations that weren't strict enough. Over time, lead paint chips off of walls and windows. As children play on the floor and put their hands in their mouths, they may ingest lead paint.
Children with elevated lead levels may experience low IQ, behavioral problems, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, memory problems and challenges in speech and language development. High levels of lead in the body can cause fatigue, headaches, muscle aches, anemia and severe neurological problems. In extremely high doses, without correction, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Lead poisoning is more concerning for children than adults because children’s brains are still developing. Children up to age 6 are still forming their blood-brain barrier, which works to keep toxic chemicals outside of the brain’s circulation.
A child acting “overly and persistently irritable” over several months could indicate lead poisoning. Parents should watch their children for persistent headache, fatigue, stomach pain, and tingling or numbness in hands and feet. If you have lead paint, you can have a company come out and remove it, though this can be expensive.
Parents with lead paint in the home should:
Even if your home does not have lead pipes providing water service, your pipes may be joined by lead soldering. Water sitting in pipes may dissolve lead off this soldering, tainting the water supply.
Clear potentially tainted water by running the faucet for a few minutes, allowing fresh water to come through. A final note, not all water filters successfully remove lead from tap water.