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Learn About Lead Safety

Release Date: July 01, 2020

This July, the Sussex County Division of Health and Office of Public Health Nursing ask you to learn about the importance of lead safety.

Lead is a toxic metal and although exposure is dangerous for anyone, some groups seem to have a higher risk than others. Children, refugees, pregnant women, children who were adopted outside of the U.S. and those who work jobs that have regular exposure to lead have the greatest risk.

Lead can be found in paints, water pipes, toys and jewelry, at certain job sites, and in candies imported from other countries or traditional home remedies.

Homes built before 1978 most likely contain lead-based paints. Although lead-based paints were banned, they were still often used. This becomes a serious health issue when the paint chips and cracks; the paint can become a dust which is easily inhaled. Lead can also be ingested; this often comes from contaminated water pipes or the fact that children often put things in their mouth.

Children in particular are at a high risk before the age of six because they are still growing and developing. No level of lead is safe, even low levels are associated with health risks. Some of the effects associated with lead poisoning are:

  • Damage to the brain and nervous system
  • Slowed growth and development
  • Learning and behavioral problems
  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Effects on IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement

In addition to the health risk associated with the development of children, pregnant women can pass lead to their unborn baby. Lead exposure from mother to baby can cause developmental issues for the unborn child - low birth weight and size; premature birth; behavioral issues; learning problems; brain, kidney and nervous system damage; and in some cases lead exposure can cause miscarriage.

The good news is that lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Primary prevention: Removing lead hazards from the environment before someone is exposed is the best way to prevent lead poisoning and its harmful effects. In addition to removal of contaminants, you can include some daily tasks that can lower your risk of coming in contact with lead.

  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces covered in lead-based paints
  • Regularly wash children's hands and toys
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windows and other surfaces
  • Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing in lead-contaminated soils
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil - provide them with sandboxes if possible
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing construction or renovation
  • Avoid using containers and cookware that are not shown to be lead free
  • Try to use cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking and making baby formula
    - hot water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead

Secondary prevention includes getting blood tests to monitor lead levels. This is a helpful way to monitor whether or not there has been exposure to lead.

If you or family members are concerned about having had possible lead exposure, contact the Sussex County Division of Health, Office of Public Health Nursing at 973-579-0370.

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