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Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a little anal about a few things – especially the health and well being of my kids.  I threw away all the plastic in my house out of fear of BPA, phthalates, PVC, and all those other yucky chemicals. I only use all-natural cleaning products.  I get organic fruits and vegetables delivered to my house weekly and buy all-natural, hormone and antibiotic free meats when possible.  I spent a ridiculous amount of money to get my kids organic cotton clothes, mattresses, mattress pads, and sheets.  So I was a little taken aback when my daughter went in for a routine lead test during her one-year visit and was found to have unacceptable levels of lead in her blood!  WHAT?!?!?!

According to our pediatrician, Lulu has a lead level of 4 micrograms.  While there isn’t really any level of lead that is considered acceptable or safe in a child, a level of 10 micrograms is considered the threshold for serious and irreversible damage to child under six. Lead exposure can also be detrimental to the unborn fetus of a pregnant woman.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), almost quarter of a million children in the US have lead levels of 10 micrograms or higher in their blood.  Unfortunately, there are no obvious signs or symptoms that a child has lead poisoning even though it can affect almost every single part of a child’s developing body.  Lead is odorless and tasteless.  And ironically, lead poisoning is also entirely preventable.

Most children become exposed to lead from eating or breathing lead paint or dust.  Older homes – especially those built before 1978 – are especially at risk.  The CDC estimates that almost 24 million homes in the US meet this criteria.

There are other ways you may be exposing your child to lead without even knowing it.

  • Candy!  Do not eat candy from Mexico.  According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), candy imported from that country was found to have unacceptable levels of lead and should be avoided entirely.
  • Avoid cheap toys and toy jewelry, especially those imported from China.  According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), lead has not been banned for use in plastics, and there is no fool-proof way to test for it at home.  So, it’s better to avoid them all together.
  • Avoid herbal remedies, especially:
  • Greta and Azarcon (also known as alarcon, coral, luiga, maria luisa, or rueda): Traditional Hispanic remedies taken for an upset stomach, constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, and used on teething babies. Both are fine orange powders that have a lead content as high as 90%.
  • Ghasard, an Indian folk remedy, has also been found to contain lead. It is a brown powder used as a tonic.
  • Ba-baw-san is a Chinese herbal remedy that is used to treat colic pain or to pacify young children.
  • Daw Tway is a digestive aid used in the Asian countries of Thailand and Myanmar. Daw Tway samples were found to have a lead content of  970 parts per million of lead and also contained high arsenic levels.
  • Get your water tested.  In the past, lead pipes were often used in homes. Over time, these pipes can corrode, leaving lead residue in your drinking water.  Hot water is especially susceptible.
  • Wash your children’s hands and toys frequently.  Children often put their hands in their mouths and can unwittingly eat lead dust.
  • Dust with a wet cloth to pick up any lead dust that may be laying around instead of scattering it with a dry cloth.
  • Pregnant woman and children under six should not be present in homes built prior to 1978 that are undergoing renovations.

If you think your child may be affected, get him or her tested.  Most pediatricians do it as a routine procedure. If yours doesn’t, request that it be done.

If your child is found to have lead in their blood, get your home checked.  Home testing kits are available but are unreliable. Find a trained and licensed lead testing and removal specialist in your area. Remove the lead as soon as possible.  Check with the CDC to see if there may be local agencies in your area to help you with the cost of this task.  If you rent, your landlord is required by law to remove the paint.

While we’re still waiting for the test results, we think Lulu got exposed to lead during a recent renovation at our home.  Our house was built in the 1800s and probably has lead (among other things!) in it.  I wish I had known these fact before the renovations.  It’s funny that I was buying no-VOC paint to keep us safe while exposing us to toxic lead.

Hopefully, the lead exposure won’t have any long-term affect on Lulu.  While lead can stay in the body for a long time, and can cause kidney, brain, and nervous system damage, Lulu’s level is pretty low.  Hopefully, more attention to this very preventable illness will help make it go away!

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