The toys and play spaces enjoyed by Kansas City children may be placing their health in jeopardy.  Lead poisoning is a preventable danger that can cause lasting health problems. Understanding the risks and identifying potential dangers can help protect children in Kansas and Missouri from lead poisoning.  

Where the danger lurks The biggest risk for children under the age of six is lead based paint.  Although the use of lead based paint was banned in 1978, an estimated 24 million American homes still have some areas contaminated with lead paint.  The problem comes from the lead paint chipping and breaking down.   

Small children are susceptible to the effects of deteriorating lead paint.  Lead paint chips and dust often contaminate objects and surfaces that small children put in their mouths.  Lead poisoning can also occur when a small child, usually a baby or toddler puts his or her mouth on an older crib, toy, or other surface contaminated with lead.  The tiny amount of lead will show up in the child's bloodstream.  

Other sources of lead can pose dangers to children as well.  In recent years, several recalls have focused on lead contaminated toys made in China that posed risks to small children.  The toys, made for toy giant Mattel, numbered in the hundreds of thousands.  The toys were decorated with lead based paint and were small enough that young children could put them in their mouths.     

Health risks Lead levels are measured in humans by the number of micrograms present in a deciliter of blood.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) identifies the presence of 10 micrograms in a deciliter of blood in children as a "level of concern."  A report published in the New England Journal of Medicine pointed to evidence of harmful effects occurring in lead levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter.   

High levels of lead in a child's bloodstream cause a litany of health problems.  The problems that lead poisoning can cause are often not visible the first time a child is exposed.  Most issues come from prolonged exposure to lead toxins, and the resulting health issues can be debilitating and irreversible.  These potential problems include: ·         Kidney damage
·         Hearing impairments
·         Mental retardation
·         Learning disabilities, including attention deficit disorders
·         Growth problems
·         Behavioral problems, possibly including delinquency and criminal acts  

High levels of lead are extremely dangerous to children.  Mental retardation, even coma and eventually death, can result from high lead exposure.  In the last several years, deaths from lead poisoning have occurred in New Hampshire and Alabama.  Additionally, pregnant women with elevated lead levels risk passing lead poisoning on to their unborn babies as well.  

Tips for prevention Measures to protect Kansas City children from the harmful effects of lead poisoning begin with cleaning up lead paint in homes, day care centers, and other places where children play.  Lead paint removal is not an easy task.  The dust from the paint removal must be continuously sprayed with water to prevent the dust becoming airborne.  Children and women who are pregnant should be kept away from areas undergoing cleanup efforts.   

If cleanup efforts cannot begin immediately, areas identified as sources of lead should be cleaned routinely.  Barring access to these areas to small children is an absolute necessity.  Toys and play surfaces should be kept clean and washed regularly.  Children should not be allowed to play in the dirt near areas where lead contamination has been found.  In order to reduce the risk of ingestion, wash the hands of small children who play outdoors in the dirt or in other potentially hazardous areas that might be tainted by lead.  

Check the CDC's website regularly for the latest lead recalls, and immediately remove any recalled toys and other products that have been identified as potentially hazardous sources of lead from the reach of children. 

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James Roswold
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James Roswold is a Kansas & Missouri personal injury, workers comp, and medical malpractice attorney.