Childhood Lead Poisoning
Each year thousands of children receive environmental exposure to lead through a variety of sources such as paint, dust, soil, or drinking water. According to the World Health Organization, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system which can be so severe that it can cause coma, convulsions, and even death. Children who survive acute lead poisoning are typically left with grossly obvious mental retardation and behavioral disruption. Lower levels of exposure that cause no obvious symptoms and that previously were considered safe, are now known to produce a spectrum of injury that includes loss of cognition, shortening of attention span, alteration of behavior, dyslexia, attention deficit disorder, hypertension, renal impairment, immunotoxicity, and toxicity to the reproductive organs. For the most part, these effects are permanent. They are irreversible and untreatable by modern medicine.
Lead exposure can be devastating for a child’s development but there are plenty of steps that can be taken to limit a child’s contact with the metal. Here is how the Cumberland County Health Department is helping with problem
Drinking Water Testing
Lead isn’t naturally found in our water supply but it is a primary component of our aging plumping systems. Lead pipes and solder leach lead into the drinking water when the natural water is acidic. Water treatment systems can correct the acidic water but if you have lead pipes, the risk is always there. This can be true for both city water and private wells. If you have concerns about lead in your drinking water, you should contact your local water testing laboratory. There will be a charge for testing, but it’s usually one of the cheaper tests you can perform. We also recommend that homeowners with lead pipes allow their faucet to run 30-45 seconds before filling a drinking a glass with water from their faucet, especially in the morning, to avoid high concentration of lead. For more information about lead in your drinking water, contact Nicole Giacalone at 856-327-7602 ext. 7129
Healthy Homes Program
One of the simplest things that parents can do to protect their children from lead exposure is to thoroughly clean their house. It sounds simple enough but the reality is that most of us don’t clean thoroughly enough to capture all of the dust and paint chips that old houses hold. The Cumberland County Health Department and the New Jersey Department of Health have developed a program call Healthy Homes that teaches parents the best way to clean a home that may contain lead. The program is geared toward new parents but is really relevant to all family members who might have a young child over to visit. In addition to teaching about the most effect way to clean for lead, the program also teaches students about using natural cleaning agents instead of commercial brands. For more information about the Healthy Homes Program, contact Brooke Sharpe at 856-327-7602 ext. 7119
The United States has adopted pretty strict standards when it comes to the levels of heavy metals that can be included in paints & plastics during manufacturing, but that doesn’t mean that all other countries have done the same. Some countries have less stringent standards and others have no regulations at all. Products from these countries are supposed to be inspected at customs but occasionally products slip through that have high levels of lead on their other surface. The Cumberland County Health Department offers a free toy screening to parents that are interested. Normally the screenings are held at daycare facilities where all of the toys in the daycare are inspected and parents are invited to bring in toys from home. For more information about this program, contact Mark Wiley at 856-327-7602 ext. 7124.
If you are interested in having your home or apartment prescreened for lead, there are a number of local contractors and laboratories that can offer you different options for testing. The Cumberland County Health Department does not offer prescreening for lead. Our involvement begins when a child has been diagnosed with lead poisoning by a physician. We then preform an environmental assessment using a specialized lead detection machine at the child’s home. The parents are given educational information and orders to remove any lead paint are issued to the owner of the property. The Health Department preforms follow-up inspections on the site once any renovations are complete. Meanwhile, the child continues to be monitored by a case manager from the Nursing division of the Health Department. For more information about this program, contact Mark Wiley at 856-327-7602 ext. 7124.