New Lead Poisoning Risk in Children
Written by Faith Anderson on July 16, 2012
Children in Homes Around Factories May be at Risk for Lead Poisoning
According to a recent draft of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) lead exposure analysis, soil can act as a reservoir for deposited lead emissions. These reservoirs can contribute to the risk of airborne lead exposure as the dust is kicked up and distributed throughout urban neighborhoods. Or, John Vandenberg of the EPA Office of Research and Development warns, the soil of the homes near the factories themselves could be contaminated, meaning children may be exposed to high levels of lead every time they set foot in the yard.
Some Democratic senators have called for a stronger and better-funded EPA and CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), in order to better address the issue of lead poisoning and to work to protect children from dangerous lead exposure from multiple vectors. Both agencies are in line for cuts next year though, and some Republicans have called for the elimination of the EPA altogether. “Despite what is known about the health risks and efforts to reduce lead exposure, industries are still releasing millions of pounds of this dangerous metal each year,” said Senator Barbara Boxer, the committee chair. “While we cannot eliminate every risk, when science tells us that a substance – even at very low levels – can damage children’s intellectual development and physical health, we have a responsibility to protect them.”
Lead Poisoning Can Result in Brain Injuries and Death
The Senate hearing comes just two months after the CDC decreased the blood lead level required for children to be diagnosed with lead poisoning from 10 micrograms of lead per deciliter to five. This CDC action came as part of its response to recommendations made by an advisory committee on childhood lead poisoning prevention back in January. The committee determined that there hasn’t been enough action to address the considerable health risks associated with low-level lead exposures, which have been understated.
Lead poisoning is a serious issue, and can cause brain damage, seizures, nervous system injury, growth or mental retardation, coma, and possibly even death in young children. One of the most common causes of lead poisoning is exposure to lead-based paint, which was banned in the U.S. in 1978 in light of the risk of severe and permanent brain damage, especially in children. Unfortunately, many older homes still have the toxic paint on their walls, and if it flakes or peels off, young children could breathe in paint dust or ingest paint chips, resulting in lead poisoning.