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Children's Health

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Many Kids With Too Much Lead Don't Get Retested

Children Need Follow-Up Tests If Their Lead Level Is Too High, Say Experts

Missed Opportunities

More than half of the children (59%) who did not get follow-up tests had seen at least one health care worker during the six-month period. But in many cases, they didn't go to their primary provider, so doctors may not have realized that a follow-up lead test was needed.

That's a sign of "a fragmented healthcare system," writes Lamphear, who has served as an expert witness in Rhode Island's lawsuit against the lead industry, says the journal.

Every state handles lead testing differently, so Michigan's results might not be typical, say Kemper and colleagues.

Is Your Home at Risk?

"Approximately 24 million housing units in the U.S. have deteriorated lead paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust," says the CDC. "More than four million of these dwellings are homes to one or more young children."

Low-income families live in many of the homes at high risk for lead problems. However, wealthier people may also encounter lead in renovating old homes.

Lamphear calls for required screening of high-risk, older housing units before occupancy and after renovation or abatement.

Less common sources of lead exposure include making stained-glass windows and recycling or making automobile batteries, says the CDC.

The CDC also says lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, and valves can leach lead and that most lead in household water comes from plumbing in the house, not the local water supply.

Some home health remedies and cosmetics may contain lead. According to the CDC, these include: arzacon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion; pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash and fever; and the cosmetics kohl and akohl.

What to Do

Concerned about children's lead risk? The CDC offers this advice:

  • Ask a doctor to test your child's blood lead level.
  • Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint or dust from your pre-1978 home.
  • Reduce exposure to lead by cleaning floors with a damp mop, swabbing surfaces with a damp wipe, and frequently washing a child's hands, toys, and pacifiers.
  • Use only cold water from the tap for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Hot tap water is more likely to contain higher levels of lead.
  • Avoid using home remedies and cosmetics containing lead.
  • If you remodel buildings built before 1978 or work with lead-based products, take steps to reduce your lead exposure. For instance, shower and change clothes when you're done with a task involving lead exposure.

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