Tips to Minimize Lead Exposure

What Is Lead Poisoning?

Lead poisoning happens when too much lead enters the body through breathing, eating, drinking or skin contact. Too much lead can cause harm to the brain, kidneys and other organs. Lead is toxic for people of all ages, but children under 6 are at the most risk for health complications because their bodies absorb it easier. 

The lead scare in Flint, Michigan, is making a lot of parents question whether their water is safe enough for their family to drink. The good news is that many cities have taken measures, during the last two decades, to greatly reduce the amount of lead in tap water. Despite these efforts, there’s still a chance that the pipes and fixtures in some homes may contain lead. According to Helen Binns, MD, head of the Lead Clinic at Lurie Children’s and one of the country’s leading experts in lead, people who are concerned about lead in their water should use cold, flushed water to ensure that the concentration of lead is as low as possible.

Ways To Prevent Lead Exposure in Children

The amount of lead in your home’s water can vary, depending on how long the water has been in the pipes, and whether it’s hot or cold. First, it’s important to know that you cannot see, taste or smell lead in drinking water. So if you have concerns about the water in your home, have it tested.

Here are some healthy steps you can take to help ensure that the water you use for cooking and drinking has a low lead concentration:

  • Before drinking or cooking with the water, thoroughly “flush” it by running the cold water for five minutes.
  • After that, fill some pitchers with cold water and store them in your refrigerator for cooking and drinking use.
  • If you need more water for cooking or drinking, flush the system again for another five minutes .
  • Water filters can reduce lead in water, but check the filter specifications, as not all filters remove all the lead.
  • For more information, theCenters for Disease Control and Preventionhas a full explanation on how to reduce lead in water.

The Impact of Lead Exposure in Children

Lead exposure in children can lead to problems with learning and behavior. No safe level of lead exposure has been found, so it’s important to keep lead exposures to a minimum.

The best thing parents can do to lessen the effects of lead exposure on their child is to give their brain a “good cushion.” You can do this by engaging in activities that promote healthy brain development, such as reading, playing, and singing with your child. Also, provide your child with nutritious foods that are essential for healthy growth.

Other Sources of Lead Contamination

In addition to drinking water, many children are still being exposed to lead-based paint, which was commonly used prior to 1978. Chicago residents with questions about lead contamination in their home’s water or paint, can call the city at 3-1-1 for guidance on how to get them tested.

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