Lead poisoning can delay a child’s ability to learn, play, and live a healthy life. If inhaled or swallowed, lead and lead dust can hurt the brain, kidneys, and central nervous system resulting in developmental and behavioral problems, and even death. In the United States, lead was widely used in paint and other products before it was considered unsafe. The Massachusetts Lead Law protects children under the age of 6 by requiring homeowners to delead homes that were built before 1978. However, lead can be found in some toys, jewelry, and other items that are manufactured in countries where lead is not regulated.
The Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) can check to see if your home has ever been tested for lead and offer resources that can help homeowners obey the Lead Law. For more information, visit www.mass.gov/dph/clppp or call 1-800-532-9571. Remember, if you rent, your landlord is responsible for obeying the Lead Law. Make sure you have a conversation with your landlord about lead safety.
In addition to finding out if your home is deleaded, here are other things you can do to protect your child:
- Hand-washing. Since lead commonly enters the body through the mouth, hand-washing will decrease the chances of your child ingesting lead through hand/mouth transmission. Teach your child to wash his/her hands often and properly after playing and before meals and bedtime.
- Test your child for lead. Ask your doctor or nurse to test your child for lead. It is recommended that children be tested at ages 1, 2, 3, and in some cases, 4.
- Choose your child’s toys carefully. Check for lead recalls regularly. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) maintains a list of recalled, lead-containing toys. For more information, visit www.cpsc.gov.
- Feed your child healthy foods. Lead is easily absorbed on an empty stomach and by children with iron and calcium deficiencies. Feeding your child foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C will help decrease lead absorption. Vitamin C will help the body absorb more iron and calcium.
Here are some foods that can help prevent lead poisoning:
- Iron-rich foods include lean meats, WIC-approved cereals, and dry beans and lentils.
- Calcium-rich foods include milk and milk products, cheese and yogurt, tofu and green leafy vegetables such as broccoli and collard greens.
- Vitamin C-rich foods include citrus fruits such as oranges and tangerines, grapefruit, and limes and lemons. Other vitamin C-rich foods are strawberries, broccoli, and potatoes and sweet potatoes.
Following these safety and nutrition tips will help you provide a healthy environment for you and your family.
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