October 25-31 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an awareness week dedicated to ensuring that homes are safe, families take precautions, and communities are educated about the dangers of lead. Children in particular are susceptible to lead poisoning and this year’s theme is “Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future.”
Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease among young children, yet approximately half a million U.S. children have blood lead levels above 5 micrograms per decileter, the reference level at which the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends public health action be initiated. When lead is absorbed into the body it can cause a range of health problems, including damage to the brain, kidneys, nerves, and blood. Lead can also cause behavioral problems, learning disabilities, seizures, and in extreme cases, death. Symptoms of lead poisoning include include headaches, stomachaches. nausea, tiredness, and irritability–however, children may show no symptoms of poisoning.
Lead poisoning is most commonly linked to deteriorated lead paint, from both inside and outside the home, that mixes with dust and soil and is spread throughout the home. Children may then become poisoned by putting their lead-contaminated hands in their mouths, eating paint chips, and playing in lead-contaminated soil. Low-income and African American children are at an even higher risk of experiencing lead poisoning.
Eliminating elevated blood lead levels in children is a Healthy People 2020 goal. Federal departments including the CDC, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have a number of tools and resources available to support local health departments in their lead poisoning prevention and community education programs.
CDC, EPA, and HUD will host a Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Twitter Townhall on Wednesday, October 28 at 2 PM ET. Follow @EPALive, @CDCEnvironment, @HUDgov and use #LeadChat2015 to participate in the chat.