St. Lawrence County health director urging parents to test children for lead
By JIMMY LAWTON
North Country Now
St. Lawrence County Public Health Director Dana Olzenak McGuire says lead can affect growth, behavior, and ability to learn, and the effects of lead are irreversible.
Children under six years old are more likely to get lead poisoning than any other age group. Most often, children get lead poisoning from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys. Lead can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy.The county recommends testing at ages one and two, but official’s say typically less than 50 percent of children are actually tested for lead.
Public Health Sanitarian Wil Neves says there are no safe levels of lead exposure, but simply touching lead isn’t likely to cause problems.
“It needs to be ingested or breathed into the body,” Neves said.
Neves says a common point of exposure occurs when people are renovating their homes and stripping lead paint from the walls. The sanding creates fine dust that can have lead in it. The dust can then be easily inhaled.
Neves said the majority of homes built before 1980 contain lead paint. He said there are techniques that can limit lead levels in the air.
“They can use working wet techniques. Use a spray bottle to keep dust down and make sure there is plastic down,” he said. “If you are residing in older home and are working or cleaning, you should make sure children or pregnant women aren’t around.”
Neves says children can also be exposed to lead through old toys, pottery, home remedies, jewelry and a variety of other sources.
He said the best method for limiting lead ingestion is to make sure the children are playing with safe toys, washing their hands frequently and taking shoes off in the house. He said lead can be in soil and tracked through the home.
Neves said that lead exposure isn’t common though water sources in St. Lawrence County, but it is possible for lead to leech from old pipes. He recommends running water for at least one minute before using it.
Neves says lead testing can be performed by physicians and pediatricians. Since 2008 119 children have tested with lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter and 41 have tested with levels above 15.