A recent study by the Environmental Defense Fund included an estimate that nearly 25% of the children in Ventura County probably have excessive amounts of lead in their bodies. Ventura County's Assn. for Retarded Citizens offers these suggestions for preventing and detecting lead poisoning.
Never let a child put paint chips, painted toys, newsprint, colored paper or paper printed with colored ink into his or her mouth. Scrape all loose paint from window sills, porches, doors and walls, especially those near the baby's bed. Repaint. If that is not possible, move the baby's bed completely away from the walls.
Transfer the contents of opened cans into glass or plastic containers immediately. Acidic foods like fruit, fruit juices, tomatoes and pickles should never be stored in opened cans. The lead content of a can of opened orange juice, for example, will more than triple within several days. Never use food from cans with dented seams. In fact, it is best to avoid seamed cans altogether. Beware of putting acidic foods in earthenware or pottery-like dishes which may be improperly glazed.
If you work around lead, do not wear your work clothing into the house. Shower before interacting with children and other family members.
Follow the rules of good nutrition. Well-nourished children and pregnant women have increased resistance to lead toxicity. Reduce dietary fat, which tends to increase the absorption of lead. If anemia is a problem, insist on a lead poisoning test. For some reason, iron deficiency aids in the absorption of lead.
The symptoms of lead poisoning can be agonizingly vague and are frequently present with other medical conditions.
Watch for constipation, loss of appetite, vomiting, irritability, listlessness and cramps. Abnormal behavior may include lack of eye and hand coordination, stumbling and speech problems.
Do not delay in seeking medical advice. Prolonged exposure results in more severe damage.