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Lead poisoning is a critical health issue that can have severe implications for children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body.”

What are the symptoms of lead poisoning in children?

Lead poisoning symptoms are often not obvious, making it difficult to identify.

“Symptoms can be vague and may include irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness, and abdominal pain,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

What are the long-term effects of lead poisoning on a child’s development?

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “Childhood lead exposure is associated with neurodevelopmental damage that often leads to lifelong learning difficulties and behavioral problems.” The CDC also confirms that lead exposure can negatively impact a child’s IQ, ability to pay attention and academic achievement.

How does lead enter a child’s system?

Dr. Helen Binns, a pediatrician at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, explains that “Children can get lead into their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips that contain lead.”

How can we test for lead poisoning in children?

Universal testing of children in the cities of Milwaukee and Racine is recommended because of the large number of old houses in those cities. The recommendations say each child should have a blood lead test three times before they turn 3—at 12 months, 18 months, and 24 months—according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services.

Read more: Lead exposure safety for back to school: 6 tips for prevention

How can we prevent lead poisoning?

Prevention is the key to protecting children from lead poisoning. The CDC suggests keeping homes free from lead-based paint and contaminated dust, ensuring children have a diet high in iron and calcium, and regular testing.

What is the treatment for lead poisoning?

Treatment varies with the severity of the case. In extreme cases, “chelation therapy” is used to remove high levels of lead. “However, the most effective treatment is preventing exposure to lead,” says Dr. Binns.

Are certain children at higher risk for lead poisoning?

Children living in older homes or in poverty are at a higher risk for lead exposure, according to the CDC. Moreover, children under the age of six are especially vulnerable as they are in a crucial period of physical and mental development.

Can lead poisoning be reversed?

Unfortunately, the damage caused by lead poisoning is irreversible. However, early detection and intervention can help mitigate some of the effects, says the AAP.

What is being done to combat lead poisoning?

The CDC runs a Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program that provides funding, guidance, and technical assistance to state and local health departments. On a larger scale, the WHO is working to eliminate all non-essential uses of lead worldwide.

Where can people go for testing?

The best local testing resource right now is a child’s pediatrician or primary care provider. They have the latest information regarding testing recommendations and the capabilities to perform all recommended tests and follow-up procedures. Elevated test results from providers are reported to local public health for further follow-up and intervention, according to the Racine Health Department.


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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.