October 20 through 26 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. It’s probably something you don’t think about, but lead can be found in our homes, entering through water pipes or paint, especially in older houses. The consequences can be extremely dangerous, even deadly.
Did you know that approximately half a million U.S. children have blood levels higher than 5 micrograms per deciliter? That’s the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends public health actions be initiated. Yet, childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children. Kids age 6 and younger have the highest risk. With a simple blood test, you can prevent permanent damage.
Lead can enter our drinking water through corroded plumbing materials. If your home was built before 1986, it’s likely to have lead pipes and other fixtures. But even newer homes are not exempt from this risk. Plumbing items that are legally labeled “lead free” may contain up to 8 percent lead. Brass or chrome-plated fixtures and faucets can leech lead into your water, especially if it’s hot.
Furthermore, if your home was built before 1978, it may have lead-based paint. The risk does not end within the walls of your home. That paint may have settled into soil or dust as well.
Symptoms of lead poisoning can be difficult to detect, since they mimic the symptoms of many other conditions. For children, these symptoms include irritability, weight loss, sluggishness, fatigue, loss of appetite, vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, and learning difficulties. Babies may exhibit slowed growth and learning difficulties. Adults with lead poisoning show signs of high blood pressure, a decline in mental function, muscular weakness, pain or tingling in the extremities, headaches, memory loss, abdominal pain, mood disorders, reduced sperm count, and miscarriage.
If you suspect there may be lead in your home, contact a lead inspector. Look for an EPA-certified firm. It’s also important to hire contractors who are EPA-certified whenever you have work done on your home.
Idaho has a Medicaid program which covers lead testing, as do most insurance providers. For more information on Idaho’s Medicaid Lead Testing Program, click on this link.