Foreign-born children living in the U.S. are 5 times more likely to have elevated blood levels of lead than U.S.-born children living in New York city, according to new research published in a recent issue of the American Journal of Public Health.
Also significant is that children who have lived abroad within the past six months are 11 times more likely to have elevated blood lead levels. Children who are the most affected by high lead levels tend to come from the Dominican Republic, Haiti, Mexico and Pakistan — nations with less regulation of lead. Out of 800 pediatric poisoning cases tied to lead paint in New York and requiring home inspections in 2006, 80% involved U.S. children, however. Researchers believe the discrepancy is explained by the fact that while paint-based lead is the most common contaminant in U.S. homes, sources of lead are more diverse, including pollution, dishes, toys, herbal medications, foods and cosmetics.
Authors of the study suggest that immigrant children are most likely being exposed to lead in their home countries, and may be bringing lead-tainted items with them when they immigrate to the U.S. The final report on immigrant lead exposure contains the following tips for parents to protect all children from the dangers of lead poisoning:
"Do not buy or use imported foods and spices, medicines, clay pots and dishes, cosmetics, and toys known to contain lead. For more information and a list of products to avoid, visit: http://www.nyc.gov/html/doh/html/lead/lead.shtml
Report peeling paint to your landlord. In New York City, landlords are required to fix peeling paint in homes where young children live.
Remind your doctor to test your child for lead poisoning at ages 1 and 2. Ask your doctor about testing older children who may be at risk for lead exposure, including exposures in other countries.
Wash floors, windowsills, hands, toys, and pacifiers often.
Use only cold (not hot) tap water to make baby formula and for drinking and cooking. Run the water for a few minutes first."
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