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Does Your Child Have Lead Poisoning?

Toxic injury attorneys at Nashville's Gilreath & Associates explore the threats lead pose to kids

Lead has been used in paint, household goods, toys, and children's and adult costume jewelry for decades. Lead is also used to stabilize or soften plastic. Despite federal and state regulations, product manufacturers sometimes use more lead than this lawful. Lead can be dangerous even deadly.

Products Containing Lead Can Cause Toxic Injury

A draft report issued by an advisory committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in January 2012 says toxic injury can result at a blood lead level (BLL) of 5 micrograms per deciliter of blood, and that the current level allowed 10 micrograms per deciliter is too high.

The following are sources that can contain toxic lead levels:

  • Water. Homes built before 1975 may have lead in the water due to lead pipes, lead solder in the pipes, or lead deposits still in pipes. If a municipal utility supplies your water, the pipes that bring water to your home are another possible source of lead.

  • Paint. Lead as an ingredient in house paint was outlawed in the United States in 1978. If your home was built before then chances are the paint contains lead. Lead paint was also used commercially. Lead can gradually deteriorate into flakes, chips, and fine dust that's easily inhaled or eaten by children.

  • Jewelry. In 2012, California started cracking down on more than a dozen businesses accused of selling and distributing costume jewelry containing dangerous levels of lead despite repeated warnings, according to NBC News. State investigators uncovered hundreds of lead-laced trinkets marketed to children and adults, including pieces with lead levels more than 1,000 times the legal state limit. The state filed a lawsuit against 16 companies, retailers, wholesalers, suppliers and distributors doing business in Los Angeles and elsewhere, accusing them of violating lead standards and falsely advertising tainted jewelry as lead-free. Jewelry possibly containing high levels of lead is sold nationwide.

  • Soil and dust. Lead particles from gasoline additives or paint can settle on soil and remain for years. Lead stays in the top layer of soil. Contaminated dust and soil can cause blood lead levels above the warning limit for children.

  • Toys. "Lead in Toys: Keep on the Lookout", is a 2009 Consumer Reports investigation that found lead in toys and other products with screen-printed or painted surfaces, including paint on plastic, fabric, or metal. Keys, key chains, cheap beads and artificial pearls, and metal jewelry for children contain lead. In December 2011, nearly 140,000 children's travel cases sold at Target were recalled because the surface coating contained excessive levels of lead.

  • Juice. Consumer Reports found that one quarter of apple- and grape-juice samples had lead levels higher than the Food and Drug Administration's bottled-water limit of 5ppb.

  • Occupational exposure. If family members work with lead they could bring it home on hands or clothes.

  • Residential exposure. If your child lives near a lead mine, battery-recycling plant (even if it has been closed), or smelter, lead exposure is likely. If you renovate or remodel a home or building without lead hazard controls, or spend time in such an environment, your family could be exposed to lead.

  • Household goods. If your child eats on or drinks from lead-glazed ceramic pottery, dishes or other household objects, he or she could be exposed.

  • Alternative medicines or therapies. Lead can be found in some traditional (folk) medicines. Lead and other heavy metals are put into certain folk medicines because they are thought to help treat ailments. Lead can accidentally get into the folk medicine during grinding or other methods of preparation.

  • Developing country or immigrant community. If you live in an immigrant community or have a child adopted from a foreign country, you or your child may have previous and/or ongoing lead exposure from imported products such as folk remedies, medication, toys, cosmetics, food, candy, ceramic ware, and other items.

Childhood lead poisoning is still a serious public health problem and the greatest source of exposure is lead-based paint hazards, including deteriorated paint and lead-contaminated dust and soil.

How Children Get Toxic Injury from Lead

Lead is a toxic metal, which doesn't break down in the environment and accumulates in the human body. A Consumer Product Safety Commission report states that lead poisoning happens when transfer of lead to the hands or fingers during touching or handling the product, and subsequent ingestion of lead from transfer of lead to the mouth from normal hand-to-mouth contact, and inhalation of lead that is released from a product into the air.

You and your child should wash your hands after handling suspected lead-containing items to avoid any oral exposure.

Lead Poisoning Symptoms

Hundreds of thousands of children in the U.S. have elevated levels in their blood, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. A child's cognitive function, academic performance, and endocrine systems can be damaged, and the effects may be irreversible. At extremely high levels (about 70 mcg/dL), it can cause severe neurological effects in children, and result in lethargy, convulsions, coma, and even death. But even at extremely low levels, the World Health Organization reports, effects have been observed on the metabolism, kidneys, and cardiovascular symptoms.

Health care providers should consider lead poisoning if children present these symptoms:

  • Increased intracranial pressure
  • Unexplained gastric symptoms
  • A history of eating or mouthing non-food objects

Exposures to lead can lead to a number of health problems, including:

  • Behavioral problems
  • Hearing damage
  • Learning disabilities
  • Joint and muscle weakness
  • Anemia
  • Organ failure
  • Nervous system damage
  • Kidney damage
  • Speech and language problems
  • Brain damage
  • Death

Keep any suspected lead objects away from children. If you believe your child is the victim of lead poisoning, set up a free consultation with one of our Tennessee toxic injury lawyers. You may be able to file a lawsuit against the company for violating lead standards. Our legal professionals can work with your child's pediatrician regarding the treatment protocols for lead exposure, consult with a medical toxicologist and/or regional Pediatric Environmental Specialty Health Unit (PESHU), or a clinician experienced in treating children with lead poisoning.

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