NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Oct. 19 through 25, the Westchester County Department of Health encourages parents and caregivers to eliminate hazards at home that can cause lead poisoning in children and to assure their young children are tested for lead exposure.
“The effects of lead poisoning can be devastating, so we must do everything in our power to keep children safe from lead,” said Sherlita Amler, MD, Westchester County Commissioner of Health. “To protect young children, keep all surfaces clear of peeling or chipping paint and contact the health department for advice before you renovate an older home. It’s also a good idea to check that your child’s healthcare provider has tested your child for lead exposure.”
From the time they are six months old until they reach age six, all children should be assessed annually by their medical provider and all children at ages one and two years should receive a blood lead test. Pregnant women should also be assessed for lead exposure by their prenatal health care provider because lead exposure can impact an unborn baby and can cause miscarriage or low birth weight.
Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. To protect your family, get your home tested. Before you buy an older home, ask for a lead inspection. If you live in an older home, it is important to keep painted surfaces from cracking and peeling and to consult with the health department if you plan to renovate your home so you can do it safely and protect young children.
Here’s what you can do to minimize a child’s exposure to lead:
- Clean up peeling paint and paint chips often, using a wet mop or sponge and an all purpose degreasing cleaner.
- Use a wet mop and a damp dusting cloth to avoid adding lead dust to the air that children will breathe.
- Wash children’s hands frequently, particularly before meals and snacks and after playing outdoors.
- Supervise small children closely to ensure they only put food in their mouths, not paint chips, jewelry or toys, which could contain lead.
- Feed children a well balanced diet high in calcium and iron, which can minimize their exposure to lead. Cheese, yogurt, beans and dark, leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium and iron.
- Don’t let children play with imported jewelry, toys, make-up or eat candy, which can contain lead or lead paint.
- Avoid serving food in pottery if you are unsure about whether there could be lead in the glaze.
Lead in drinking water is rarely a significant source of lead poisoning. However, if you are unsure about the level of lead in your drinking water, use only water from the cold water tap for cooking and drinking or making a baby’s formula. Run
cold water for three to five minutes in the morning to flush out any lead which may have leached into the water during the night. Hot water picks up more lead from pipes and solder. If more than six hours have gone by since a tap was last turned on, run the water until it becomes cooler before using it for cooking or drinking.
Throughout the year, the health department’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program staffers educate parents and providers about the dangers of lead exposure; provides surveillance and monitoring of blood lead level data to identify trends and populations at risk for lead exposures; conduct investigations in the home and other places where lead poisoned children spend time to identify lead hazards and work to remediate those hazards. The Program maintains a lead poisoning registry for the medical case management of Westchester County children diagnosed by their primary care providers with lead poisoning and collaborates with providers to reduce levels of lead exposure.
New cases of lead poisoning continue to occur, caused primarily by lead hazards in the home. In 2013, the health department tracked the health status of 142 children who were identified with elevated lead levels through routine blood lead tests. In 2012, the department tracked 131 children and in 2011, 174 children were followed. At low blood lead levels, lead can adversely affect a child’s ability to learn. At high levels, lead is an acute poison that can cause developmental delays, seizures, and in severe cases, death.
If you live in certain parts of Westchester, the county health department can offer a free home inspection and risk assessment for lead paint hazards to prevent children from become lead poisoned. Residents can schedule a free home assessment by calling the health department at 914-813-5000 if they live in these zip codes: 10701 and 10705 in Yonkers; 10801 in New Rochelle; 10606 in White Plains; and 10550 in Mount Vernon. This service is available because the county receives additional state grant funding because of its many older homes and significant number of lead-poisoned children.
For more information about lead poisoning prevention, call the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or go to www.westchestergov.com/health.