In light of the recent national recalls of products containing lead, the Central Ohio Poison Center at Columbus Children’s Hospital offers advice to parents related to the need for testing of lead levels in children.
“Any child who has eaten or repeatedly sucked on a lead-contaminated object needs a blood lead test,” said Marcel Casavant, MD, medical director of The Central Ohio Poison Center, chief of Clinical Pharmacology/Toxicology at Columbus Children’s Hospital and professor at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Depending upon the lead exposure history of a child, additional assessment and treatment may be required.”
Lead has no value to the body, and in fact is the most common environmental poison to harm children. Lead can cause abdominal pain, constipation and vomiting, anemia (a low blood count) and growth stunting. Lead can hurt the kidneys and lead to high blood pressure later in life.
“The main reason lead is such a public health concern is because lead hurts the brains of children,” said Casavant. “One major reason lead is such a hazard is that most children with enough lead to hurt their brains nevertheless have no symptoms, and a blood lead test is the only way to make the diagnosis.” For young children, having lead exposure now can mean having fewer IQ points as an adult. Children who have had lead poisoning are less likely to finish high school, and more likely to have troubles concentrating and reading.
Parents who suspect their child has been exposed to lead can contact their child’s physician to discuss blood lead testing, unless a child is exhibiting lethargy, persistent vomiting, seizure or coma, in which case emergency transportation to a hospital emergency department is appropriate.
To assist parents in evaluating their child’s exposure to lead, Casavant suggests the following questions:
-Does your child live in or regularly visit a home, day-care, pre-school, or babysitter’s home built before 1950?
-Does your child live in or regularly visit a home with chipping, peeling, dusting or chalking paint?
-Does your child live in or regularly visit a home built before 1978 with renovation or remodeling ongoing, recently performed or planned?
-Does your child have a friend, playmate or sibling who currently has or did have lead poisoning?
-Does your child come into regular contact with an individual who has recreational (pottery, painting, fishing, etc) or occupational (welding, construction, renovations, etc) lead exposure?
-Has your child had repeated contact with a toy or product which has been recalled due to lead content?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes or maybe, parents should consult with their child’s physician regarding a blood lead test. Persons desiring additional information regarding lead poisoning may be connected to their poison center by calling 1-800-222-1222.