Americans spend the majority of their time indoors where hazards may be found which can affect their health. These hazards include mold, radon, carbon monoxide, tobacco smoke, and pests. Most importantly, lead is considered one of the greatest indoor environmental threats to Ohioans.
To raise awareness about the importance of a healthy home, Ohio is celebrating National Healthy Homes Month. The Licking County Health Department is joining the Ohio Department of Health to promote healthy homes for all Ohioans.
What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when a person has excessive amounts of lead in their body. The lead can enter the body by breathing or swallowing a substance with lead in it, such as paint, dust, water, or food. In children, lead poisoning can cause lasting problems with growth and development. These complications can affect behavior, hearing, and learning and can slow the child’s growth. In adults, lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system, the stomach, and the kidneys.
Although it isn’t normal to have lead in your body, a small amount is present in most people. Environmental laws have reduced lead exposure in the United States, but it is still a health risk, especially for young children. It’s important to test your home and your children for excessive amounts of lead.
What causes lead poisoning?
The most common source of lead in homes is deteriorating lead-based paint. Lead poisoning is usually caused by months or years of exposure to small amounts of lead at home, work, or day care. It can also happen very quickly with exposure to a large amount of lead. Many other things can contain lead: paint, air, water, soil, food, and manufactured goods.
Who is at highest risk of lead poisoning?
Children or adults at highest risk include those who:
• Live in or regularly visit homes or buildings built before 1978. These buildings may have lead-based paint.
• Are immigrants, refugees, or adoptees from other countries.
• Are 6 years old or younger, because:
• They often put their hands and objects in their mouths.
• They sometimes swallow nonfood items.
• Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate.
Others at risk for lead poisoning include people who:
• Drink water that flows through pipes that were soldered with lead.
• Work with lead at their job.
• Cook or store food in ceramic containers. Some ceramic glaze contains lead that may not have been properly fired or cured.
What are the symptoms?
In children, symptoms can include:
• Slightly lower intelligence and smaller body size compared to children of the same age.
• Behavior problems, such as acting angry, moody, or hyperactive.
• Learning problems.
• Lack of energy, and not feeling hungry.
In adults, lead poisoning can cause:
• Changes in behavior, mood, personality, and sleep patterns.
• Memory loss and trouble thinking clearly.
• Weakness and muscle problems.
How is lead poisoning diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects lead poisoning, he or she will administer a blood test to find out the amount of lead in the blood. Most children with lead poisoning don’t have symptoms until their blood lead levels are very high.
Talk to your child’s doctor about whether your child is at risk and should be screened. Adults usually aren’t screened for lead poisoning unless they have a job that involves working with lead. For these workers, companies usually are required to provide testing.
Lead is one of the greatest indoor environmental threats to Ohioans. Lead-based paint was used in homes until the late 1970s. As lead is in many homes, it is important when working on these homes to take precautions. Repairing homes built before 1978 require additional steps to make the renovation lead-safe.
Having a healthy home is more than just keeping lead out of your home. It includes keeping your home dry, clean, and safe. A well-ventilated and well-maintained home are also key to a healthy home. In addition, the home should be contaminant-free and pest-free.
For more information on how to keep a healthy home for you and your family, visit the Licking County Health Department’s website, www.lickingcohealth.org.