Be Aware of Lead

Lead-Based Paint

To all parents everywhere, but in urban areas and old cities especially: Be aware of lead. It’s everywhere. It’s in the paint on older houses. It’s in the soil, from old paint and auto exhaust. It might be ground as fine as dust, but it’s still a heavy metal. Still toxic. It gets into our bodies. It circulates in our blood, gets stored in our bones, affects our brains. It is especially deleterious to the development of young children. There is no level of exposure that’s been determined to be safe.

Don’t think that the signs of lead poisoning are obvious. They are not. At least, not at the levels most parents are likely to encounter. If a child shows actual symptoms of lead poisoning, his or her life may be in danger. Immediate medical attention is a must. But for most children, lead poisoning is more subtle and insidious. Parents will not notice any symptoms. The only way to detect this is through screening via blood sample. Your pediatrician should conduct a test around the time of your child’s first birthday, and probably testing should continue annually, until at least age six.

You can get little swab test-kits to use around your home. If you discover lead, don’t panic. Sometimes well-intentioned remediation makes things worse. Stirring up lead dust is generally not a good idea. Unfortunately, professional remediation for private residences is essentially unavailable in many areas. (Pros are focused on commercial/industrial customers, who are the only ones who can afford their services.) Take the threat seriously, and take action, but don’t go off half-cocked. Get educated and take the appropriate steps.

If you see people dry-sanding an old house in your neighborhood without appropriate safeguards, approach the workers and demand that they stop immediately. Inform them that what they are doing is against the law. Tell them that you are concerned about the safety of your children. Give them the impression that you’re just crazy enough to do something rash. By all means, report the misdeed. But do not fall prey to the fantasy that government authorities will actually protect your community in anything approaching a timely fashion.

Despite your best efforts, your child may still get poisoned. Obviously, you cannot police every atom. Do not panic. That will not help anything. Depending on the severity, you may wish to get some cilantro-chlorella extract. The combo is important: One plant gets the lead moving, the other gets it out of the body. It’s hard to find, but look around online and you may be able to find a non-alcoholic tincture that combines the two. It tastes pretty good and your child should take it readily.

Good luck. Our children face many hazards in this world. As parents, we simply do the best we can. The trick is to worry just the right amount, enough to stay vigilant, but not so much that you lose your sense of joy.