Lead Poisoning Prevention
Lead poisoning in children is one of the most common PREVENTABLE environmental related diseases and 74% of all private housing built before 1980 contains lead paint. West Allis is not immune to the lead problem. Those at greatest risk are children younger than 7 years and pregnant women.
The most common source of lead is from leaded paint. Others include varnishes, drinking water, emissions, auto exhaust, solder, folk remedies, leaded mini-blinds, tinsel, and hobbies such as stained glass ceramics or furniture refinishing. There are always new sources of lead being found too; for example in some candle wicks and other imported products.
Exposure to children occurs mostly from ingestion of lead based paint chips, or from the dust or soil contaminated by lead paint. This contamination happens from deteriorating paint or home renovation. Lead does not break down or "go away" so as our homes become older, the integrity of the paint is lost and the risk of exposure increases.
Lead can affect every system in the body. It is extremely harmful to the developing brains of fetuses and young children; as their bodies grow, they absorb lead more efficiently. Children with elevated blood levels usually show no symptoms of poisoning at first. Low to moderate levels can cause decreased intelligence, growth, and behavior problems. Severe lead exposure can cause coma, convulsions and even death.
Ways parents can help protect against lead poisoning:
- Have your child tested for lead poisoning.
- Keep your child away from peeling paint.
- Wash children’s hands before they eat and wash objects that children regularly put into their mouths.
- Make sure the child eats at least three meals a day with foods high in iron and calcium.
- Assure safe elimination of the lead hazard.
- Use good housekeeping methods; keep home as clean as possible by keeping dust to a minimum. Use wet-mop methods.
- Call the West Allis Health Department at 414-302-8600 for more information about lead poisoning and free lead testing on children under age 6.
Lead Prevention Web Sites:
With a staff of Wisconsin Certified Risk Assessors, the Environmental Health Division provides prompt intervention in the case of a lead-poisoned child. This includes a full lead assessment, which may include a visual inspection, a test with an XRF (Lead-in-Paint Analyzer), dust wipe sampling, soil sampling, water testing, toy or mini-blind testing, and education to parents. Follow-ups are continued until the child has a lead safe environment.
Most of the homes in our community were built before 1980 and may have lead paint in them on the walls and windows. Chipping and peeling of old paint and the dust that is created as you open and close old windows are the most common source of lead poisoning in children. Certain occupations and hobbies of the parents also lead to lead exposure. Young children are especially vulnerable to the effects of lead as they develop.
Children under age 6 are at greatest risk for lead exposure. A child is lead poisoned if the lead level is 5 micrograms per deciliter or higher. The only way to know if a child is lead poisoned is by getting a blood test. Contact your child's medical provider or the West Allis Health Department for more information or to schedule a lead level blood test.
Lead Poisoning Prevention Services
For more information regarding any of these services, or with questions about lead, contact the West Allis Health Department at 414-302-8600.
Environmentalists are available to visit your home to identify potential sources of lead poisoning in your home.
The West Allis Health Department has a special HEPA filter vacuum cleaner available for residents of West Allis and West Milwaukee to check out. This vacuum has a special filter designed to trap lead dust.
Public Health Nurse Follow-Up
When a child is identified with an elevated lead level, a nurse contacts the family to offer information, developmental screening of the child, assistance in identifying the source of the lead exposure and counseling regarding follow-up lead testing and resources for lead abatement.