MADISON — Lead poisoning is an extremely serious problem that can have life-long health effects on children. Some people might think that lead poisoning is a problem that we've already solved. Unfortunately, it is still an ongoing health challenge for many communities. Long term exposure to lead, even at very low levels, can damage the brain, kidneys, and nervous system leaving children and pregnant women particularly vulnerable. Its effects on children include learning disabilities, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder, and behavioral problems – problems that can show up years after the exposure has occurred.
Many lead hazards still exist in homes and the environment such as interior and exterior paints, older plumbing, glazed ceramics, antiques, and certain imported candies. However, the most common source of lead exposure exists in owner or renter occupied homes built before 1978, where lead-based paints and other potential lead hazards may still be present. When old paint deteriorates, leaving chips and/or paint dust, these are the conditions that create the highest risk for a child getting exposed to lead and the possibility of lead poisoning.
Parents of children under the age of 6 should make sure to have a blood test performed by their health care provider. This is important because symptoms of lead poisoning are not obvious and it is easy for them to go unrecognized. If the child is uninsured, Public Health-Madison and Dane County (PHMDC) can do this testing without charge.
PHMDC offers families help in identifying lead hazards in the home, performing risk evaluations of the home, and investigating exterior lead issues. To arrange for this help, call (608) 266-4821.