Twenty-four million homes in the U.S. have peeling or chipping lead-based paint and high levels of lead-contaminated house dust, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health and Family Services. More than 4 million homes with lead paint contamination are occupied by young children.
Childhood Lead Poisoning
Lead is a metal that has been used for thousands of years to make many different products. Children can be exposed to lead in air, food and drinking water, and by coming into contact with different products. When a child has too much lead in their system, they don't look sick, but they can have many problems. Some examples of problems include trouble paying attention or concentrating, having stomachaches or headaches, feeling tired frequently, trouble with coordination, or showing aggressive behavior. Children with very high lead levels may have severe brain damage or could even die.
Where Lead is Found
Paint made before 1978 is the most common source of childhood lead poisoning. Many other products may contain lead, such as:
- Soil or dirt where you live, or near a factory or auto shop
- The pipes in some older homes
- Candy and candy wrappers made outside of the U.S.
- Some handmade pottery
- Cast iron and metal pots made outside of the U.S.
- Small toys made outside of the U.S.
- Azarcon, greta and other powders used in home remedies (Note: It is important to check with your doctor before giving your child any medicine or home remedies.)
Testing for Lead Poisoning
Children should have a simple blood test at 1 and 2 years old. This can be as simple as a quick finger-prick in your doctor's office. BadgerCare Plus pays for this test. If the level of lead in your child's blood is too high, the local health department will contact you or visit your home to help you find the source of the lead and help you fix the problem.
Protecting My Child from Lead Poisoning
There are several things you can do to help prevent lead poisoning in children. Members are encouraged to wash their child’s hands and face often, especially if they are teething, as small children tend to put everything in their mouths.
Use cold water instead of hot, to make infant formula and for cooking. Let the cold water run for a minute before using it for cooking or for drinking. This will help flush out any lead that may come from the pipes.
Eating low-fat foods and foods high in iron and calcium can protect a child from lead poisoning. Some examples of iron and calcium-rich foods include milk, yogurt, cheese, iron-fortified cereals, eggs, beans, raisins, green leafy vegetables, spinach, collard greens, fruits, whole grains and lean meats.
Either contact your child’s doctor or our Health Program team at 414-266-3173 to learn about the following:
- Hearing and vision screenings
- Dental screening and a referral to a dentist
- Blood and urine lab tests (including lead testing when appropriate for age)
- Immunizations (shots) appropriate for age