Lead Busters

It’s referred to as the number one pediatric problem that is completely preventable. It causes hyperactivity, learning disabilities and even brain damage. The problem is lead poisoning, and in some inner cities up to 25 percent of all children have it. Here’s what every parent needs to know about lead poisoning.

When a test showed high levels of lead in 6-year-old Ashley Dillon’s blood, her mother Denise worried. “You know it causes brain damage, and I don’t want none of them to have brain damage,” she says.

Felicia Rabito, Ph.D., says the problem occurs when kids swallow lead paint chips and dust.

Dr. Rabito, an assistant professor at Tulane School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine Prevention Research Centers in New Orleans, says, “You can pretty much guess if you have an old home, a home built before 1978, that there was lead paint that was used in the home.”

Enter the LeadBusters — community members who identify lead in old paint and work to eliminate the risk.

LeadBuster Ramsey Razik says, “When there’s lead paint on moveable surfaces, say your doors or windows, you want to make sure there’s no peeling or cracking and cover it with a new coat of paint when that occurs.”

LeadBusters recommend other ways to stay safe. Let the water run several seconds first thing in the morning so any lead remnants run free. Wet mop and wet dust regularly. Don’t allow kids to play in the dirt around your home. And paint over old chipped paint.

“Again, you want to sand it or scrape it in a manner that will contain all the paint and all the dust,” says Dr. Rabito.

As for 6-year-old Ashley, vitamins, calcium and fresh fruit are now a regular part of her life. And thanks to these precautions, Ashley’s lead levels are back in the safe range, and she’s back to feeling good.

Lead poisoning is especially dangerous in children ages 6 months to 6 years old. A simple blood test can reveal whether a child has excess amounts of lead.

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