Monday, January 21, 2008

The Dangers of Lead Paint

(MS) - By now, most parents are fully aware of the recalls involving toys contaminated with lead-based paint. While few parents are likely to take such recalls lightly, some might not be aware of the specific dangers lead-based paints present, whether it's on a child's toy or on the walls of a home.

While everyone would like to think their homes do not contain any lead-based paint, older homes very well might, making it all the more important that all people understand just what hazards this substance presents.

What Are the Dangers?

The dangers associated with lead-based paints are many, and none should be taken lightly. Because lead paint can harm both the brain and the central nervous system, the negative consequences of exposure can be very damaging. Among those consequences are:

· decreased intelligence scores

· learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder (ADD), hyperactivity, problems with memory

· impaired hearing

· decreased growth, poor coordination, muscle and joint pain

Who Is In the Most Danger?

Perhaps the scariest part about lead-paint exposure is those who are most at risk to its negative consequences: children 6 years of age and younger, including the unborn. This is because a child's brain and nervous system are undergoing more rapid changes than those of an adult, and as a result their systems absorb more lead than an adult's.

Adding to the risk factors for children is the typical lifestyle of a child, one that involves playing on the ground or floor. Younger children, especially, frequently put things (such as toys) in their mouths. This makes them more likely to inhale or ingest lead dust. Unborn children are at risk because mothers with elevated levels of lead in their blood can very well pass that lead on to their unborn child. If this occurs, low birth weight, premature births and even miscarriages could result.

How Can Kids Be Protected?

Most homes built before 1978 will have lead-based paint, and nearly all built before 1960 will. However, the presence of lead-based paint alone is not necessarily hazardous. If the paint is intact, meaning it hasn't deteriorated or cracked, then it's likely harmless. People living in older homes should make it a priority to not allow their paint to deteriorate. Chipped paint and any areas, such as windows and doors, where painted surfaces rub together are high-concern areas.

To protect children, first and foremost have them tested. For infants, have them tested before their first birthday and then once more a year later. If you're still concerned, have children under the age of 6 tested annually.

Another way to keep kids safe is to keep them out of work areas around the home. Ward off rooms that are under construction, and keep furniture in such rooms covered in plastic to avoid lead dust. Spray all surfaces with water once the room is ready for use again.

While getting kids to wash their hands can sometimes be a chore, this is also an effective way to protect them from exposure. Lead gets into the body through ingestion or respiration, so kids should wash their hands before eating and going to bed.

A healthy diet can also protect kids from possible exposure to lead. Children who get sufficient calcium, vitamin C and iron in their daily diet will absorb less lead. Consult a physician to put together a diet for a child that will provide healthy levels of all three.

CAPTION: While a child's toy can seem harmless, a recent rash of toy recalls should have parents on the lookout for lead-based paint in toys.


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