(Richmond, Va.)— The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) encourages everyone to learn about lead poisoning and how to prevent it throughout the year, and highlights the importance of awareness during National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. Running October 23-29, the week’s theme is Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future and focuses on the many ways parents can reduce their child’s exposure to lead and prevent its harmful effects, with an added focus this year on lead in drinking water.
“Lead poisoning is one of the most preventable environmental diseases among young children,” said State Health Commissioner Marissa J. Levine, MD, MPH, FAAFP. “National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week serves as a great opportunity to raise awareness of the simple steps individuals can take to protect their children, their loved ones and themselves.”
Lead poisoning can affect any child, but children under age 6 are at the greatest risk. In Virginia in 2015, 211 children under the age of 6 were confirmed to have elevated blood lead levels. In children, too much lead in the body can cause lasting problems with brain development affecting behavior, hearing, learning and speech. It can also slow the child's growth. In adults, lead poisoning can damage the brain and nervous system, stomach and kidneys. It can also cause high blood pressure and other health problems.
Major sources of lead exposure include lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust in older buildings (pre 1978). Children can also be exposed to lead from other sources including contaminated drinking water. Public water supplies are routinely tested for lead but private water supplies (wells) are the owner’s responsibility. Other sources of lead exposure could be contaminated soil and take-home exposures from a parent’s workplace.
Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do:
- Get your home tested. Learn about the service lines and pipes in your home. Before you buy an older home, ask for a lead inspection.
- Get your child tested. Even if your young children seem healthy, you can ask your doctor to test for lead.
- Learn about drinking water. Most homes in Virginia rely on public service lines for their drinking water, but it’s important to learn about those service lines. Homeowners that rely on well water should have their water tested.
- Understand the facts. Your local health department can provide helpful information about preventing childhood lead poisoning. Contact information for local health districts can be found online at: http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/local-health-districts/
For information about working safely with lead paint, how to have your home tested for lead, or information on having a lead safe home, please visit the Lead-Safe Virginia website: www.vdh.virginia.gov/leadsafe/
For information on private well management, well water and well water testing; please visit the Virginia Household Water Quality Program website at: www.wellwater.bse.vt.edu/vahwqp.php and the VDH website at: www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/drinking-water-and-lead/
For concerns about someone who may have been exposed to lead, contact your doctor, your local health department, or the Virginia Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 or www.virginiapoison.org/