Just the other night I was meeting a group of fellow running coaches to discuss our 2016 half-marathon schedule. During our initial “chit-chat” one of the running coaches brought up what he was currently doing at work, understanding and screening for lead poisoning. Even though I know what lead poison is I didn’t know it was still a large issue. Then, I started doing some research just to learn about lead poisoning problems in Michigan.
According to USA Today, there is a public health crisis occurring in Flint, Michigan where every child under the age of 6 should be considered exposed to lead. Exposure to lead occurred when Flint changed their water system from water being pumped out of Lake Huron to its own treatment plant that drew water from the Flint River.
So what do you need to know about Lead and Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body over several months, if not years, according to Mayo Clinic. Small or large, lead can cause serious health problems especially in children under the age of 6 as it can lead to mental and physical development problems. The most common sources of lead is lead-based pain in older homes and lead-contaminated dust in buildings. Other sources of lead include contaminated air, water and soil.
Symptoms of lead poisoning is hard to detected. Blood samples are the best way to determine if someone has a high blood lead level. However, such blood tests do not represent past exposure that may have accumulated in bones, teeth and soft tissues. Symptoms in children, during high accumulation include:
- Developmental Delay
- Learning difficulties
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Hearing Loss
- Constipation … among others
If someone you know has been exposed to lead there are treatments. Treatments include chelation therapy: a medication that binds with the lead that is excreted in urine.
Since nobody wants to have to go through treatment, below are some easy ways to prevent lead poisoning:
- Wash hands and toys –> helps reduce hand-to-mouth contamination to dust or soil
- Clean dusty surfaces –> use a wet mop or damp cloth
- Run cold water –> if you have older plumbing that contains lead pipes, run cold water for at least a minute before using
- Eat a healthy diet –> regular meals that provide good nutrition may help lower lead absorption