Toxicologist Says Lead Poisoning Remains a Threat to Children in Alabama
BIRMINGHAM – Every year in the United States, 310,000 children under the age of 5 are found to have unsafe levels of lead in their blood, which can lead to serious health problems.
Erica Liebelt, M.D., co-medical director of the Regional Poison Control Center at Children’s of Alabama and a Professor of Pediatrics and Emergency Medicine at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), says long-term lead exposure is dangerous to people of all ages, but children, in particular, are more susceptible to its detrimental effects due to their greater absorption from the gastrointestinal tract, their growing bones and the rapid development of their brains.
“Lead can have effects on the neurocognitive development of children, causing learning and behavioral problems as well as effects on different organs in the body like the kidneys,” Dr. Liebelt said.
Symptoms are not always apparent, she said, so it is important to have children tested for lead exposure if parents are concerned about exposure, or if the child has any risk factors for lead exposure. Symptoms may include headaches, stomach pains, anemia and possible behavioral and developmental problems.
The most common cause of lead poisoning is lead-based paint used in older U.S. homes. Other causes include contaminated soil, certain toys and sports objects, bowls glazed with lead paint and old lead pipes or faucets.
To reduce the risk of lead exposure and protect kids, Dr. Liebelt said experts recommend being knowledgeable about when your house was built and if any lead paint or pipes are present, keeping homes clean and free of lead paint/lead dust and ensuring adequate iron and calcium in your child’s diet.
If you think your home could have lead poisoning, have your paint tested, contact your local water authority about having your water tested and have your child tested for lead. You can call the Regional Poison Control Center at 1 (800) 222-1222 for more information.
Since 1911, Children’s of Alabama has provided specialized medical care for ill and injured children, offering inpatient and outpatient services throughout central Alabama. Ranked among the best pediatric medical centers in the nation by US News & World Report, Children’s provided care for youngsters from every county in Alabama, 41 other states and eight foreign countries last year, representing more than 677,000 outpatient visits and more than 15,000 inpatient admissions. With more than 2 million square feet, Children’s is the third largest pediatric medical facility in the U.S. More information is available at childrensal.org.