In America, approximately a quarter of a million children suffer from lead poisoning. Unfortunately, parents may have no idea a problem exists until it is too late and irreversible brain and/or organ damage has occurred.
Lead can be found in air, water, soil, dust, household products, building supplies and even toys. However, the greatest source of lead exposure is from household paint. Prior to 1978, residential paint contained lead. Today, the lead particles can make their way through the paint, even new coats of paint, and into household dust. The dust then gets on the hands of youngsters and settles on their toys-both of which often end up in the children's' mouths.
In the past, an official diagnosis of lead poisoning required 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood. However, to prevent additional cases of lead poisoning and to create safer environments for children, the National Toxicology Program believes good evidence exists to support the premise that appropriate lead levels should be lowered below the 10 micrograms mark. Advisors to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are suggesting a lowered definition-from 10 to five micrograms-with periodic reassessments.
Should the CDC decide to lower the standard for lead levels, the number of children qualifying for a lead poisoning diagnosis is expected to raise the quantity of cases significantly. In fact, advisors to the CDC estimate the number could jump to nearly a half million cases.
Some are concerned about the impact and additional stress placed on government entities and housing should the level be lowered. With a legal obligation to maintain safe properties, residential landlords may face greater responsibility when fixing, maintaining and leasing their buildings. Further, local regulatory agencies may face challenges in obtaining the funding required to provide additional services for preventing, screening and following up on lead poisoning cases. Despite skeptics' concerns, proponents believe that the increased safety for children is important.
If and until a new standard is set, parents are encouraged to take precautionary measures to protect their children. These measures include regular hand washing, especially before eating, removing shoes at the door and regular house cleaning. Should a parent suspect a child has been exposed to lead or if a child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning, it is important to work with a physician to develop a treatment plan. To protect your legal rights, it is also important to consult with an attorney experienced in handling lead poisoning cases.