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'Acceptable' Lead Levels Linked to Lower IQ Scores in Kids

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"How much of that association of lead and IQ is really a factor of poverty?" asks Lanphear? "If there's a problem, fix it before a child moves in, using housing codes before a house is bought."

To keep children safe from lead poisoning, remember the following:

  • Keep areas where children play as dust-free and clean as possible.
  • Wash toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Make sure that children wash their hands before meals, naptime, and bedtime.
  • Try not to bring lead dust into the home. (If you work in construction, in demolition, in painting, with batteries, in a radiator repair shop, or in a lead factory, or if your hobbies involve lead, you may unknowingly bring lead into your home on your hands or clothes.)
  • If your home was built before 1950, ask your pediatrician to test your child for lead.
  • If your home was built before 1978, talk to your pediatrician or health department about safe ways to remodel before any work is done.
  • Clean and cover any chalking, flaking, or chipping paint with a new coat of paint, duct tape, or contact paper.
  • Repair areas where paint is dusting, chipping, or peeling before placing cribs, playpens, beds, or highchairs next to them.
  • Check with your pediatrician or health department to see if your area has a problem with lead in the water.

Even though small, Lanphear's study is consistent with larger population data, indicating that the existing lead standards need to be toughened. That is in spite of the fact that the EPA just toughened its latest recommendations for lead levels in blood in January. The new recommendations are 25 times as strict.

Lanphear views lead poisoning as a public health menace on par with tobacco and feels that the government needs to crack down on lead. In addition, Lanphear believes the lead industry needs to do more.

"Why wouldn't we demand that the lead industry association, and the pigment industry, and the petroleum industry pay for all the pollution and contamination in the environment to fix it up. It's a huge environmental justice issue," says Lanphear.

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