A. You are right that living in an older home, which may have lead paint, is a risk factor for lead poisoning, but you are a little off on what actually classifies a house as being old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics and CDC states that children are at risk for lead poisoning if they live in or regularly visit a house that was built before 1950 or one that was built before 1978 (24 years ago) and is being remodeled or has recently been remodeled. So, if your house was built in 1987, it should not place your child at risk for lead poisoning from lead paint.
Why is the year 1978 so important? It is because lead was not taken out of paint until 1977, so homes built before 1978 may have lead paint in them.
If you own or are renting a home built before 1978 and are planning to remodel or renovate your home, it should first be tested for lead paint. Although home tests are available, they are sometime unreliable, so you should consider having a qualified lead professional do the work. The EPA has a lot of information on protecting your family and dealing with lead paint in an older home.
The other big risk factors include:
- having a friend who has an elevated lead level
- lives in an area where more than 27% of the housing was built before 1950. Enter your state and then county, selecting '1990 ZIP Codes & Counties within one State' into this CDC Census Database to see if you live in a high risk area or contact your local health department.
- getting services from a public assistance program for the poor, such as WIC and Medicaid.
Other risk factors can include having a parent or family member that has a job or hobby that uses lead (making pottery and stained glass), drinking water in a home that has plumbing with lead or lead solder, and using some folk remedies, such as greta and azarcon. Lead can also be found in dust and soil, old ceremic cookware, and some imported toys, candles and cosmetics.
Although childhood lead levels have been dropping, lead poisoning is still a serious problem and can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, mental retardation and many other health problems.
Not all children are tested for lead poisoning anymore. Instead, all children are (or should be) screened to see if they have any risk factors when they are 9-12 months old and again at 24 months, and then those high risk children are tested. If your Pediatrician doesn't screen your child for lead poisoning, review the risk factors above or take this lead poisoning screening quiz to see if your child is high risk and needs further testing.
In addition to screening and testing your children if they are high risk, other steps that you can take to reduce their risk of lead poisoning can include:
- Discourage your child from chewing and eating non-food items (pica), such as dirt and paint chips
- Run the faucet for a few minutes before using cold water for cooking, drinking or preparing infant formula (this can help flush out the lead which can build up in sitting water).
- Keep your child healthy and well nourished, since being undernourished is a risk factor for lead poisoning.
- Wash your chlild's hands after he has been playing outside, especially if he was playing in dirt.