Lead poisoning is still a health hazard in Kansas. Children under the age of six are most at risk for lead poisoning since their brains and bodies are developing rapidly. All children are susceptible, but especially those who live in older housing, close to highways, near mining and industrial sites, or if caregivers work in occupations that could expose them to take home lead.
There is no safe level of lead in blood. Lead poisoning can result in lower IQ, behavior problems and delayed development, which for children can mean a lifetime of health issues and limited possibilities. Both individuals and society pay the price for lead poisoning when the effects lead to future costs associated with special education, decreased earning potential and criminal behavior as well as immediate costs associated with health care for treatment and remediation of an environment exposing a child to lead.
Blood testing for children 6 and younger is recommended if any lead exposure is suspected. It’s the only way to confirm lead poisoning. If a child’s blood test shows exposure, then steps can be taken to reduce or remove any harmful sources and to determine if treatments and other interventions are needed.
Some other steps that everyone can take are to clean frequently and make sure that children wash their hands after playing and before eating. Nutrition can also play an important role in reducing lead poisoning. A healthy diet with foods that are high in calcium, vitamin C and iron can help reduce lead absorption.
It’s crucial for our Kansas communities to know the sources and risks of lead poisoning. Together, we can advocate for our children and give them the best possible future. If you suspect a child in your care has been exposed to lead, please ask the child’s health care provider for a blood test.
You can learn more about lead poisoning prevention online at Test4Lead.org.
—Farah S. Ahmed, MPH, Ph.D., is the environmental health officer and state epidemiologist for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.