Get The Lead Out For Health, Intelligence And A Brighter Future

October 25, 2011

Body

get-the-lead-out

What if you knew of a way to improve a child's intelligence, school performance, grades, attention span, coordination and sports performance while reducing the chances of ADHD? Sound too good to be true? It's not.

You can do all that and more for children by preventing lead poisoning.

We find an alarmingly high number of cases of lead poisoning in Houston's high-risk areas.

Texas Children's Health Plan and the City of Houston are currently rolling out a screening campaign, Get the Lead Out (in Spanish, Saca el Plomo), in conjunction with National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. It's free and easy to get your child (or for providers, your patients) screened for lead poisoning. Call the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (832) 393-5154 or (832) 393-5082.

Children should be screened at ages 1 and 2. Start screening at 6 months of age if a child is at a high risk. If kids missed getting screened at these ages, they definitely need to be screened as soon as possible before age 6. We need to screen kids before too much damage has been done. It's important for providers to follow our screening guidelines for physicians — I call it Lead Screening Made Ridiculously Easy. Combined, these interventions make doing the right things the easy thing.

Lead is also a danger to women who are pregnant or may become pregnant. Women exposed to to unsafe levels of lead store it in their bones, and when they become pregnant the lead is leeched out of their bones into their fetus.

For kids with low levels of lead, we can treat them by having them eat foods rich in iron, calcium and vitamin C (which help rid the body of lead) and by reducing the source of lead in the child's environment. For kids with high levels, we'll facilitate an environmental investigation, and those with very high levels will be referred to our excellent lead poisoning specialists.

Risk factors (see a list here) include older housing (lead paint was commonly used prior to 1978). The child doesn't have to live in the house to be affected — even frequent visits to grandma's or a caregiver's house can put kids at risk. So can:

  • Living or playing near a freeway (because of the lead in gasoline)
  • Imported pottery; many glazes contain lead
  • High-end china and crystal; food may be served on it but should never be stored in or on it
  • Living in a high-risk zip code (lower-income kids are at increased risk)
  • Folk remedies, including some for colic

We also recommend that all kids on Medicaid get screened for lead poisoning as well.

Kids without risk factors must be screened by questionnaire.

Much of the reason there is still such a danger to our kids relates to 2 common mistaken beliefs: first, that there isn't much of a problem, and second, that there's not a lot we can do about it.

The fact is, there is a substantial problem and there is definitely something we can do about it.

Lead has definite effects on intelligence, behavior, school performance, attention disorders and overall health. Let's Get the Led Out so that Houston can set an example for the state and nation.

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