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Lead poisoning has been a hot topic in the media in recent months. In addition to concerns with lead in the water of our local systems, the Flint crisis continues to drive changes to state and federal laws, and there are continued efforts to educate the public about the need to reduce sources of lead. With so much information, it makes it difficult to understand what it is that you need to know.

Let’s start with the basics. Lead is a metal that affects brain development, particularly in children who are at the highest risk because their brains are still developing. Even low levels of lead in children’s blood can affect their IQ, ability to pay attention, academic achievement and criminal behavior. There are many sources of lead – with the most common being deteriorated paint and lead-contaminated household dust in homes. Lead can also be found in soil, water and in toys and jewelry from some foreign countries.

So, what can you do? Because of the presence of lead in the environment, the Health Department (ACHD) recommends that all children be tested for lead at 9-12 months of age and again at 24 months. Your health care provider can do the test and, depending on the results, may also repeat the tests or recommend an investigation to determine the source.

You can also take steps to reduce the risk of exposure in your home if it was built before 1978. Have your house checked for lead-based paint. If renovating, repairing or painting, use only lead-safe certified firms – if you rent, talk with your landlord about fixing surfaces with peeling or chipping paint. Keep painted surfaces in good condition. Wash children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys often. Damp dust and wet mop your home and children’s play areas frequently. Get your soil tested before you start gardening, or before allowing children or pets to play in bare soil. If you work with lead, shower and change clothes before going home and wash your work clothes separately from other clothes.

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