As any mother, I want to protect my children from EVERYTHING. Anything and everything. So when something gets past my radar, and messes with my kids, my Mama bear comes out full force. So when my son’s 15 month wellness check returned results that he had a lead count of 6, I immediately started to look for someone to blame. It couldn’t be me? I didn’t screw up. Here’s the kid that I painstakingly nursed, jumping through both physical and emotional hurdles to provide the best health and daycare for him. And he has lead poisoning??? How did this happen? It’s 2014!
After a few deep breaths, many ranting sessions, a phone call to a lawyer, and A LOT of research, I came to the conclusion that lead poisoning is still a very real thing, regardless of it being 2014. It has to do with the fact that many of our homes, especially in Bangor, are older, built pre-1978, before lead paint became a known issue. And many people think (like I did), “Well my kid isn’t eating paint chips or chewing on the walls so I don’t need to worry about it.”
Dust is a huge issue, something highly overlooked, and a cause of lead poisoning in many kids. Children under 6 are most at risk (though if you suspect there is lead in your home, I suggest your entire family get tested. It’s just a little blood…). So in my attempt to be Super Mom, I share my findings with all of you.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning is caused when there is a build-up of lead in the human body. Even small amounts can lead to health issues and at higher levels can be fatal. Most children come in contact with it from lead paint, typically from eating paint chips that have fallen on the floor, easily grabbed by little fingers. There is so much awareness about chipping paint that lead-contaminated dust is often overlooked or not something people know about. Little hands pick up the dust or the dust falls on toys, which then get into those tiny mouths.
Now this can be tricky. Typically, according to Mayo Clinic, signs and symptoms are not always apparent unless your child has a high lead count. Anything over 5 needs treatment. Some symptoms are irritability, loss of appetite, weight loss, sluggishness and fatigue, abdominal pain, vomiting, constipation, developmental issues such as learning difficulties or slowed growth. My son didn’t really have any of these. I didn’t notice any signs and with a lead count of a 6, I probably wouldn’t. My suggestion is to get your child tested at their 12 month appointment. It’s an easy finger stick or blood draw (Nat got the blood draw and it wasn’t all that bad – but every kid is different and handles things differently).
What you can do to help limit exposure?
Remember, it’s not about just paint chips, it’s the dust caused from chipping lead paint. This means that cleaning is a must if your home potentially has lead in it. The State of Maine suggests that you use wet cleaning methods. Be observant, check for chipping paint and wash down window sills weekly with a wet washcloth.
Since lead can sometimes be in water (and I’m sure there was a recent pamphlet that I saw about Bangor water) or can be contaminated by old pipes, it is recommended that you do not use tap water for formula or for a cup of water for your children. If you are going to use tap water, you should run the cold water for at least a minute.
Know Your Rights
Don’t make my mistake. You are a customer. A consumer of the apartment, and your landlord needs to provide you with that service. And most important, THIS IS YOUR KID’S HEALTH AT STAKE! Above all, keep this in mind and let Mama Bear out of her cage. You are not an inconveince. You are making sure your children stay safe. Make sure that your landlord provides you with your copy of “Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home”. It’s a federal and state law! Your next step is to ask your landlord if the apartment has been tested for lead. It is also a federal and state law that they must provide you with any documents from that lead inspection before signing a lease (they are suppose to tell you as well – but don’t expect that they will – be proactive). If the apartment was built before 1978, there is a chance that there may be lead paint. Order yours for FREE today from the State of Maine CDC.
Also, any renovation in a home where lead paint is suspected or known about, landlords must undergo very specific steps to protect their tenants from the possibility that lead contaminated dust could be inhaled.
Again, this is an exercise in observation. If you see chipping paint, call your landlord to get it fixed. They have to fix it or you can make a case that your home is no longer suitable for living. That is your right. Make sure you follow the rules to protect yourself from eviction.
Too Long; Didn’t read
This post can be simplified to: Lead is still an issue. Get your kid’s tested. Know your rights. Be a PITA to your landlord to protect your children. My son will be fine. There doesn’t seem to be any long term effects and where his level is low, it will soon be removed from his system using Vitamin C and possibly an Iron treatment. I hope that sharing this bit of research will help others who don’t know about the dangers of lead.