Lead is a naturally occurring metal in our environment, but is toxic to human health. Lead is very dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and they are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. There is no safe level of lead in blood, and the longer a child is exposed to lead, even at low levels, the more likely the child’s growth and development will be affected. For young children, lead poisoning can cause behavior problems, learning disabilities, including speech and language delays.
Rock County has one of the highest rates of lead poisoning in Wisconsin. Older deteriorating paint is the most common source of exposure in Rock County. Rock County is home to a large number of houses built before 1978, when the federal government banned the use of lead paint. Children under the age of 3 are at the highest risk of lead exposure because they tend to pick up lead dust on their hands and put their hands in their mouths. Homeowners, tenants and landlords need to ensure that older homes with deteriorating or chipping paint are remediated in a lead-safe way. Funding to remove lead sources is often available to homeowners and landlords.
“Lead poisoning is preventable and the key is to prevent children from coming into contact with lead. Lead poisoning doesn’t have any immediate symptoms, which is why regular testing by pediatricians is recommended,” says Rick Wietersen, environmental health director at the Rock County Public Health Department.
Here are some ways you can reduce a child’s exposure to lead:
- Know your lead rights. Before you buy or rent an older home, ask for a “Lead disclosure statement.”
- Get your child tested. If your child is under the age of 6, ask your doctor to test him/her for lead, especially if they spend time in older homes.
- Learn about lead sources. Many older homes have lead-based paint in them. Peeling, chipping, chalking or cracking paint is dangerous to small children. Learn more about lead at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/parents.htm.
- Understand the facts. Visit the Rock County Public Health Department website at www.co.rock.wi.us/publichealth-environmental/publichealth-homehazards/publichealth-lead or WI Department of Health Services at www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/lead/index.htm.