Lead is a metal found in nature. It can be found in all parts of our environment – the air, the soil, the water, and even inside our homes. Lead is a poison when it gets into the body, and it can stay in the body for a long time. Babies and young children absorb lead more easily than adults, so it is especially bad for their health.
Lead poisoning is when lead builds up in the body, usually over months or years. It can:
- Hurt the brain, kidneys, and nervous system
- Slow down growth and development
- Make it harder for the child to learn
- Damage hearing and speech
- Cause behavior problems
The harm done by lead may never go away, so it is important to get your child tested and treated.
The only way to know whether your child has been exposed to lead is through a blood test that measures how much lead is present in your child's blood. This is called a blood lead level. If your child is 6 years old or younger, ask your child's doctor for a blood test. You should have your child tested each year until the age of 6.
- If your child's blood lead level is between 5-9 μg/dL: A blood lead level in this range is at a level of concern. It is not safe for a child to have a blood lead level of 5 or more. Your child should get a blood test again within two months after their first test. Your child's doctor may prescribe multivitamins and iron. Your child's doctor may also suggest your child eat a diet that includes foods that contain a lot of calcium, vitamin C, and leafy greens (iron), and to limit how many fatty foods your child eats.
- If your child's level is >10 μg/dL: A child with a blood lead level greater than 10 has lead poisoning.
If your child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning:
- You are required to have a lead inspection for your home. An inspector from the Boston Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (BCLPPP) will check your home for lead. If there is lead in your home, it must be fixed.
- Your child will also require medical care. He or she may have to stay in the hospital. Your doctor may prescribe your child with chelation therapy. Chelation therapy is a medicine that helps eliminate lead from the blood.
- Some children may have trouble speaking, hearing, or paying attention. Ask your doctor about learning problems your child may have. You may need a special education plan for your child.
To learn more about lead poisoning or request a lead inspection, call the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 617-534-5965.