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BELMONT — Lead poisoning is a danger to every child and baby, but it is also the most preventable environmental disease in children.

Lead is a metal and can come from various things in the environment and everyone is at risk for lead poisoning, but children under six years old are especially susceptible to the dangers. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that nearly half a million children living in the United States have elevated blood lead levels that may cause significant damage to their health. The health impacts of lead poisoning include damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior difficulties and hearing and speech problems.

The Allegany County Department of Health’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is working with New York State Department of Health to educate parents, guardians and providers about the importance of preventing lead poisoning.

New York State requires health care providers to test all children for lead with a blood lead test at ages 1 and 2. A child with lead poisoning may not look or feel sick and the only way to know is to get a blood lead test.

There are many sources of lead, but most often, children under six years old get lead poisoning from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys. Children can also be exposed to lead from additional sources including contaminated drinking water, soil, toys made in other countries, and jewelry found in discount stores and vending machines, take-home exposures from a workplace, and some traditional medicines and ointments. Spices used for cooking have also been recalled due to high levels of lead.

How to reduce lead exposure:

Clean-up:

• Keep children away from peeling or chipping paint.

• Use wet paper towels to clean up lead dust, especially around windows, play areas and floors.

• Wash hands and toys often with soap and water and keep things away from children’s mouths.

• Always wash hands before eating and sleeping.

• Wash toys and pacifiers frequently.

Healthy foods: Feed your child healthy foods with calcium, iron and vitamin C. These foods may help keep lead out of the body.

• Calcium is in milk, yogurt, cheese, and green leafy vegetables like spinach.

• Iron is in lean red meats, beans, peanut butter, and cereals.

• Vitamin C is in oranges, green and red peppers, and juice.

Find the lead in your home: Most children get lead poisoning from lead paint dust.

• Home repairs like sanding or scraping paint can make dangerous lead dust. Homes built before 1978 contain lead-based paint, often under newer paint. Based on the age of the home, assume you have lead based paint. Learn more about how to do repairs and renovations in a lead-safe way at health.ny.gov/environmental/lead/renovation_repair_painting/.

Water: Certain water pipes may contain lead. Lead found in tap water usually comes from the corrosion of older fixtures or from the solder that connects pipes. When water sits in leaded pipes for several hours, lead can leach into the water supply.

• Let tap water run for 1 minute before using to clear lead from old plumbing.

• Only use cold water for drinking, cooking, and preparing infant formula. Boiling this water will not reduce the amount of lead in your water.

• The only way to know if your water contains lead is to have it tested.

Other:

• Use lead free dishes, pots and pans and avoid eating or drinking from dishes that are hand painted, made in another country, or leaded glass, crystal or pewter.

• Avoid using herbs, spices, candies or foods that could be contaminated with lead.

• Use proper care cleaning up after jobs and hobbies that involve working with lead-based products like glass work, painters, and contractors. Lead dust can be transported on clothing and tools.

• Other sources of lead include firearm bullets, vinyl mini blinds from other countries, batteries, radiators, car exhaust, fishing sinkers, and some colors of ink.

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