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The Health Effect of Lead Exposure

When paint flakes are disturbed during even minor renovations, the home becomes filled with lead dust. Sweeping or vacuuming can spread the dust to furniture, toys and food, from which it is readily transferred to the hands and mouths of infants and toddlers.

Exposure to excessive levels of lead may cause the following health effects:

Children
Brain damage, stunted growth, kidney damage, hearing impairment, vomiting, headaches, appetite loss, and learning and behavioral problems.

Adults
Can increase blood pressure, can cause digestive problems, kidney damage, nerve disorders, sleep problems, muscle and joint pain, and mood changes.

Fetuses, infants, and children are more vulnerable to lead exposure than adults since lead is more easily absorbed into growing bodies. Also, the tissues of small children are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.

About 20 percent of the lead children take in comes from water. Hot water and soft water can leach excessive amounts of lead from pipes. Therefore, never use the water from the hot tap for cooking or for mixing drinks or infant formula, and do not soften drinking water. In general, it is wise to let the cold water run for a few minutes before using it for cooking or drinking.

Make sure that infant's, toddler's and pre-schooler's hands are washed often, particularly before handling food. Food and drinks should never be served, cooked or stored in decorative ceramic containers or lead-based crystal. Imported pottery is best checked for lead content before it is used for food. Avoid imported canned foods; the solder may contain lead. Children can also be exposed to lead from soil surrounding a home. If soil around the home contains a lot of lead, remove it or cover the soil with grass or layers of mulch, or planted with shrubbery to discourage children from playing in the areas.

If anyone in the household works at a lead-related job or hobby, protect children from their lead-contaminated clothing and shoes. Workers should change clothes and shower before returning home.