Every parent wants to provide a safe and healthy environment for their child. El Dorado County Health and Human Services Agency, Public Health Nursing is hoping to increase awareness among parents about the hidden dangers of lead exposure to children. October 22 through October 28, 2017, is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week.
Lead is found in many products and can be harmful if ingested. The buildup of lead in the body is referred to as lead poisoning. Children can be exposed to lead by eating or chewing on metal objects made with lead, ingesting lead-based paint chips or dust containing lead, eating imported candies that contain lead, or by being exposed in other ways.
According to Josefina Solano, supervisor with the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in El Dorado County, lead is especially harmful to children, pregnant women and unborn babies. "Lead exposure can cause learning disabilities and behavioral problems in children. At very high levels, lead can cause seizures, coma and even death," said Solano.
Ways to reduce the risk of lead exposure include the following:
Testing for Lead ExposureThe only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is to have the child's blood tested for lead because most children will not look or act sick. The California Department of Public Health (CDPH) recommends that children be tested at ages one and two for lead exposure, or once if the child is older and has never been tested. This test is typically done as part of a well-child exam and involves the collection of a small sample of blood. The test can be requested through the child's pediatrician or health care provider; Medi-Cal and many health insurance plans cover this important preventive test.
In El Dorado County, Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program staff have been working with local health care providers to encourage blood lead testing at the recommended ages. Staff have also encouraged providers to invest in upgraded equipment that makes the test easier to administer and analyze.
According to Solano, several health care providers in the county have purchased this equipment and have found it to be a great benefit to their practice as well as to families. "This equipment, called a LeadCare Analyzer II, allows the health care provider to complete the blood lead test on-site at the medical office and receive immediate results, rather than having to send the family to an external laboratory to complete the procedure," said Solano.
Although El Dorado County does not typically have a large number of children who test positive for high blood lead levels, Solano emphasizes the importance of children being screened. "If a child's blood tests high for lead, staff from El Dorado County Public Health and agency partners work with the family to further assess the situation, provide education to the family, and help them identify and reduce the possible source of lead," said Solano.
For more information about lead poisoning prevention, visit the State's website at: www.cdph.ca.gov/programs/clppb or contact the El Dorado County Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (530) 621-6106 in Placerville or (530) 573-3165 in South Lake Tahoe.
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