Monday, August 1, 2016

What family caregivers need to know about how lead affects their children

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Families are finding out that lead poisoning is occurring everywhere (MI, NJ, etc.), not just in paint chips, and not just in urban areas as is commonly believed.  Most recently lead was found in the water fountains in suburban schools as well and all school water in NJ is being tested.  And it’s not just in the water!

Where Lead Can be Found & How it Hurts Kids
It is also known that lead can be found in soil, pesticides, water, paint, and dust[i].  Even small amounts of lead can be harmful, especially for young children who are still growing, and can also build up over time. Lead has been reported to cause learning and developmental disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, impaired hearing and brain damage[ii].  While lead can cause disabilities and developmental delays, children who already have disabilities may be at even greater risk of ingesting lead.  For example, a child with an intellectual/ cognitive disability may be more likely to put things in their mouths at even older ages than would a child without such a disability.

Prevention is Key

Parents should ask their child’s pediatrician if they have been screened for lead through a simple blood test.  Only 10% of children under age 3 have been tested nationally which means there are approximately almost a million children affected but untreated[i].  The Nebraska Department of Health has an excellent factsheet for families on lead including dust, soil, water, products such as toys and jewelry etc. (see Resources.)

What if My Child has Lead Poisoning?

Family caregivers should find out what the next steps are from their child’s pediatrician.   A level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or more is considered unsafe and would require intervention.  Also, there are other resources for parents dealing with lead poisoning which have steps to take. 
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a factsheet especially for families.  Information is also available from the National Lead Information Center.  There is an overview of what lead poisoning is, how to test, etc., available from the Parent Center Hub. 

Parents need to be aware of the dangers of lead, how it affects their children, and prevention.  By partnering with their child’s health care provider, family caregivers can reduce the risks that lead could have on their child.  


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention-information for parents

National Lead Information Center

Parent Center Hub

Sources of Lead - NE Dept. of Health and Human Services

Remain Hopeful,


Special thanks to Maria Docherty for creating a lead resource for the NJ Parent Training and Information Center (Statewide Parent Advocacy Network) staff.  A version of this article for professionals recently appeared in NJ Pediatrician magazine of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Lauren Agoratus is a parent/advocate who works for the Statewide Parent Advocacy Network and serves as the NJ Coordinator for Family Voices (, a national network that works to “keep families at the center of children’s healthcare” at or FB  She also serves as NJ representative supporting caregivers across the lifespan for the Caregiver Action Network (formerly National Family Caregivers Association) in a volunteer capacity at or FB


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