Lead is a toxic substance that may be present in dust, paint, soil, and drinking water. When ingested or inhaled as dust, lead poses a serious health risk to young children. Low levels of lead exposure can cause nervous system and kidney damage, learning disabilities, poor muscle coordination, slower growth, hearing losses, and also speech, language, and behavior problems. While low level exposure is most common, exposure to high levels can have devastating effects including seizures, consciousness, and even death.
The purpose of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) is to eliminate lead poisoning in Saint Louis County.
To attain this goal, the CLPPP provides a variety of services, including blood lead testing for children six and under, and pregnant women, comprehensive case management services for lead poisoned children, community education and lead hazard control.
The program explains and enforces Saint Louis County’s lead ordinance, meets state contract obligations in promoting the Centers for Disease Control’s guidelines for lead poisoning in children and provide necessary services for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to meet its national health objective of eliminating lead poisoning in children.
Basic Information about lead Poisoning…
Facts about lead
FACT: Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born.
FACT: Even children who seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies.
FACT: You can get lead in your body by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead.
FACT: You have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard.
FACT: Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to your family.
If you think your home might have lead hazards, read on to learn about lead and some simple steps to protect your family.
Who is at risk?
Any child may be at risk for lead poisoning; however, children under the age of six are at greatest risk for lead poisoning due to their frequent hand-to-mouth behavior and rapid development. Lead Poisoning can occur regardless of financial, social-economical or cultural status.
Health effects of lead
Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the United States.
People can get lead in their body if they:
Put their hands or other objects covered with lead dust in their mouths.
Eat paint chips or soil that contains lead.
Breathe in lead dust, especially during renovations that disturb painted surfaces.
Lead is more dangerous to children because:
Babies and young children often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
These objects can have lead dust on them.
Children's growing bodies absorb more lead.
Children's brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead.
If not detected early, children with high levels of lead in their bodies can suffer from:
Damage to the brain and nervous system
Behavior and learning problems, such as hyperactivity
Lead is also harmful to adults. Adults can suffer from:
Reproductive problems (in both men and women)
High blood pressure and hypertension
Memory and concentration problems
Muscle and joint pain
How can you tell if someone is lead poisoned?
Children with lead poisoning may have no signs or symptoms. If they complain, it may be about general things such as headaches or stomachaches. Because there are no signs or symptoms, you must have your child tested for lead poisoning on a regular basis. A simple blood test may be the only way to know if a child is lead poisoned.
Where do you go to be tested?
Testing can be done at your child’s own pediatrician’s office or any County health center. Saint Louis County health centers provide walk-in testing that does not require an appointment, but testing is at designated times only and may require a fee. Contact information for the three health centers is listed below:
North Central Community Health Center (Pine Lawn) 314-679-7800
South County Health Center (Sunset Hills) 314-842-1300
John C. Murphy Center (Berkeley) 314-615-0500
What do blood lead levels mean?
Having lead in your blood is not normal. Blood lead levels are measured in micrograms per deciliter ( µg/dl) of blood. If you have blood lead levels at or above 10 µg/dl, you need to be concerned and talk to your doctor or clinic.
Lead Levels Chart:
||0 - 5 µg/dl
||Not considered lead poisoned.
||5 - 14 µg/dl
||Rescreen more frequently.
||15 - 19 µg/dl
||Help should include finding the source
of lead and advice about diet.
||20 - 44 µg/dl
||Medical checkup plus above help;
child may need medication (chelation).
||Above 44 µg/dl
||Serious lead poisoning that requires
Can lead poisoning be treated?
Lead poisoning can be treated but prevention is best. If your levels are between 10 µg/dl and 14 µg/dl, you should be retested as your doctor/nurse advises. Between 15 ug/dl and 19 ug/dl, you should be retested as advised and you will be given steps to take to reduce the lead in your surroundings. If the level is above 20 ug/dl, a repeat test is done. You will receive a medical checkup and someone should come to your home to help you find the sources of lead. Medications to reduce the lead level may be started. Other family members may also need to be tested.
Lead poisoning isn't like a cold. A pill will not easily fix it. Once lead is in a body, it will stay there for a long time even with treatment. There may be permanent damage. In mild cases of lead poisoning, the "treatment" is finding the lead and making your home safe so that no more lead enters the body. If you can keep any more lead from getting into your body, then the amount of lead in the body will go down because some lead is slowly passed from the body every day through the urine and stool.
Eating foods that are rich in iron (meat, fish, eggs, beans and green vegetables) and calcium (milk and cheese) and avoiding fried foods, help to keep the body from absorbing more lead. In serious cases of lead poisoning a child or adult may need "chelation therapy". Medications are taken that attach to the lead in the body and help to get the lead out much faster through the urine. If the blood lead level is very high, you or your child may have to stay in the hospital for a while.
Lead poisoning can be treated but prevention is best.