Lead is a chemical element that can be found within a surprisingly wide range of everyday objects: paints, ceramics, lipstick, and in some cases, even tap water. Most of us are taught to avoid prolonged lead exposure at an early age, but this is especially important for babies and toddlers, as heightened blood-lead levels can lead to a host of serious health problems.
Not only are babies and toddlers still experiencing the earliest stages of physical development, but they also spend so much time crawling on floors, which means they’re a lot more likely to have a close encounter with paint chips or traces of dirt that contain lead. Lead poisoning doesn’t happen at once, but rather builds up over time.
Decades of medical research has revealed that infant lead poisoning can present itself as irritability, indigestion or vomiting, sudden weight loss, and fatigue, among other symptoms. But most serious of all, lead can harm a baby’s developing brain, interfering with their motor skills and overall development. If left undetected or untreated, the damage can be permanent.
A great place to begin your lead defense plan is right at home. Depending on when your house or apartment was built, there may be traces of lead in some of the building materials, especially if the building is older (the U.S banned lead in paint in 1978) or located near an expressway with heavy traffic. You can purchase a lead test kit at most hardware stores, but a professional lead inspection - while more expensive - will give you much more definitive answers. Next, call the doctor and schedule a blood lead test for your baby before her 1-year birthday. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended at least one blood lead measurement exam for all U.S. children, given the lingering risk of lead exposure from regular consumer products. If your baby’s blood lead levels are above normal, the doctor may be able to help identify possible lead sources back at home before prescribing medication and dietary suggestions.