Posted by Catherine D. Bertram, Partner
As the holidays draw closer, there are news stories and articles about unsafe toys which raise potential risks for lead poisoning for our community’s children. Of all the safety hazards for young children, this is one of the most preventable kinds. Tragically, almost 1 million children in the United States have elevated levels of lead in their blood. Below, I have summarized points from the American Academy of Pediatrics regarding lead screening for children. Click here for the entire fact sheet.
How can children be exposed to too much lead?
- Children less than 6, can be exposed if they get lead dust from old paint on their hands or toys and then put their hands in their mouths;
- Breathe lead dust from old paint;
- Eat old paint chips from paint that contained lead;
- Drink water from pipes lined with lead.
If you are renting in DC, you can click here to learn more about your rights to a lead free living space.
Once the lead enters to the child’s body, it travels through the blood stream and can be stored in the bones. Very high levels of lead can cause problems such as,
- Developmental delays
- Hearing loss
- Seizures and coma
- Kidney problems
- Growth problems
In some cases where the child ingests a large amount, you may see immediate vomiting, headaches, stomach pain or weakness. If you see these sudden changes get the child medical help immediately and explain what the child may have been exposed to.
Most children with high lead levels do not show obvious signs until they reach school age. It may show up and be mistaken for learning disabilities or behavioral problems when it is really the lead.
What can you do?
- If your home was built before 1950 have your children tested for lead by your pediatrician;
- If your home was built before 1978 talk to your pediatrician about testing and whether it makes sense;
- Talk to your department of health about remodeling if you have a home build before 1978;
- Check with your pediatrician or the department of health to see if your neighborhood has high lead levels in the water and if so, have your child tested;
The only way to know for sure is to have your child’s lead level tested. Lead screening tests use either a small amount of blood from a finger prick or a larger sample from a vein in the child’s arm. These are necessary to measure the level of lead in the child’s blood.
We have experience assisting families whose children have been injured by excessive lead exposure, as well as other cases of illness as a result of exposure to other toxic substances in DC. For information about your legal rights, please email Catherine Bertram at firstname.lastname@example.org or call Ms. Bertram directly at 202-833-1875.