In some northern Brooklyn neighborhoods, roughly 2.5% of people under age 20 have been exposed to lead. Lead exposure is often caused by peeling paint and poor housing conditions and tends to occur in lower income areas.
Exposure to lead in housing poses a significant health risk to young children, especially under age six. When absorbed into the body, lead is highly toxic to many organs and systems and seriously hinders the body's neurological development. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at increased risk, because lead ingested by the mother can affect the unborn fetus.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, frustration and behavioral problems, and difficulty expressing thoughts can all be caused or exacerbated by lead exposure.
Lead poisoning creates a silent injury — you won't necessarily know if your child has lead poisoning even if their blood lead levels are high. If your child has lead poisoning, you should find out where he or she has been exposed to the lead.
The most common source of lead poisoning is from paint in older houses and apartments. Children are typically exposed to lead either by getting lead dust on their hands and then putting them in their mouths or by licking or chewing on surfaces that have lead paint on them.
Your doctor can perform blood tests to determine whether there is lead in your child's bloodstream. There are also testing kits you can use to detect lead in your home that are available in many hardware stores. These kits contain material that will turn color if you rub it against a surface with exposed lead.
Contact your health care provider if you suspect your child has been exposed to lead. They can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated blood lead level, and can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
Our Children's Health Center performs lead screenings for children at nine months, two years and four years. Please call 718.250.8671 for an appointment.