Conclusion of three-part series
Lead poisoning is a continuing problem in the United States, especially to children six and under. Lead based paint is the major source of lead poisoning in the United States. Chipped or peeling lead paint poses the greatest risk. However, even intact lead paint can create fine lead dust which may be difficult to see.
Millions of older homes have lead paint on windows, doors, frames, sills, walls, floors, stairs, railings, banisters, woodwork, molding, baseboards, porches and fences. Toys and furniture may also have lead paint.
Soil can be contaminated by chips and dust from exterior paint, lead-based insecticide and highway pollution. Water may be contaminated by lead water pipes, plumbing fittings made out of brass or bronze or lead solder used to connect plumbing.
There are many sources for possible lead contamination such as dust from renovation, even a few houses away. Other sources may include antique pewter, drapery and window weights, battery casings, some folk medicines and folk cosmetics, some porcelain and pottery (especially imported) and dust or fumes from hobbies that use lead, such as stained glass or target practice.
An outside source of contamination such as paint chips from the outside of a water tower can have a two block radius range of exposure.
East Side Elementary School is outside of that radius of Brazil's water tower. Located at 936 E. National Ave., it sets approximately two and a half blocks east and five blocks south of the tower. However, it's close enough that the Health Department has a family notification policy in place in the event a child in the two-block radius of the tower should test positive.
Clay County Health Nurse Jennifer Lucas said families living in that radius and parents of the school children would be notified by mail. Addresses would be obtained from the school, 911 data base and Head Start. Those parents would be advised to have their children tested.
If the two-block radius had a positive test, Lucas said there are precautions the people living in that area can take to protect themselves.
- If chips are found, they should be picked up with rubber gloves, placed in plastic and thrown away.
- Neighbors should not mow their lawns.
- The surface of outside floors, decks and exposed areas should be scrubbed at least two times a week for a minimum of two weeks or until the situation is resolved.
- Children should limit their play outside and their hands should be washed and shoes removed before entering the house.
- Toys outside the house should be washed and kept outside.
- Wrap materials used for cleaning in plastic and throw away.
- Animals outside should be washed before brought back inside.
It is much easier to prevent lead poisoning than to treat it. The easiest way to prevent lead poisoning is to identify any possible sources and eliminate them.
Parents can take precautions to help decrease a child's exposure. Children's nails should be clipped short and hands washed before meals, snacks and bedtime. Wet mopping and dusting will minimize the amount of lead dust in the air. Children's toys and pacifiers should be washed frequently.
Contaminated soil can be planted with ground cover, grass or bushes to reduce exposure. Water pipes in the home can be replaced.
The most common treatment for extremely elevated lead levels, after reducing the exposure, is chelation therapy. Chelation is a process by which a drug, referred to as a chelating agent, is administered to the child (or adult) orally or intravenously. The chelating agent works by binding itself to the lead in the body's soft tissues, reducing the toxicity level. However, the efficiency of chelation therapy is limited.
Proper diet with foods low in fat and high in iron and calcium is an important part of both preventing and treating lead poisoning. Deficiencies in iron, calcium, protein and zinc are related to increased lead levels in the blood and tend to increase future vulnerability to lead poisoning. It's important for children with lead poisoning to always keep food in their stomachs, as this slows absorption of the lead.
Children age six and under are the most susceptible to lead poisoning. If parents have any concerns they should have their children tested.
Screenings for lead poisoning can be done at a doctor's office or health clinic. The Clay County Health Department offers the tests free, by appointment, the third Monday of every month to children 1-6 years of age. If a young child tests positive, older children and/or pregnant women in the home will then be tested.
The Mayor and the Clay County Health Department are confident that there is no critical danger of lead contamination from the water tower at this time. The mayor continues to address the issue and plans to eliminate that source as soon as possible.
Because there are so many possible sources for lead contamination and the consequences of lead poisoning can be very serious, everyone is advised to be aware of possible sources and take preventative measures to protect their families.