Your Home Could be Harming Your Children

October 23, 2011

Have you ever you tested your Chicago home for lead? How about your children?

October 23-29 is Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an observance recognized nationwide but one Illinoisans should be especially tuned into.

Almost a quarter of a million children in the United States have blood lead levels high enough to cause significant damage to their health, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Last year in Illinois, about 3,300 children were found to have elevated levels of lead in their blood, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH). That’s one of the highest numbers in the country.

Protect your home and children from lead.

“Even at low levels, lead poisoning can affect almost every system in the body, causing learning disabilities, shortened attention span, behavioral problems and, in extreme cases, seizures, coma or even death,” said IDPH Acting Director Dr. Craig Conover.

“Lead poisoning is preventable if you recognize lead hazards, test your home and make sure your children are screened for lead exposure.”

Homes especially at risk are those built before 1978, when lead-based paint was banned. It is estimated that about two million Illinois homes were built before 1978 and contain lead through its paint or even dust.

The only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is through a blood test, which is recommended between ages of 12 and 24 months. Your child will be tested between six months through six years before entering day care, preschool or kindergarten.

Here are some tips from the IDPH for reducing lead exposure in your home:

*Wet-wash hard surfaces and vacuum floors weekly to control dust levels.

*To prevent tracking lead dust into the home, remove shoes when coming indoors or place mats o0r rugs at the door to wipe shoes.

*Install contact paper over painted shelves where food is stored and over chipping paint. Replace the contact paper as it gets old and does not stick well to the surface.

*Place heavy tape, like duct tape or electrical tape, on window sills, stair rails and table edges as a temporary barrier to prevent children from being exposed to chipping paint or lead dust.

*Wet-wipe other flat surfaces weekly where dust collects – for example, television screens, table tops, crib rails, stair steps and doorknobs.

*Be sure to clean areas frequently that rub against a leaded surface, including doors and windows. Pay special attention to the window trough, the inner part between the window sill and the storm window.

*Remove or replace mini-blinds unless you are sure they do not contain any lead and wash them every three to six months.

*Be sure to change rags and mop heads frequently, so lead dust is removed and not just smeared around at your next cleaning. If rags and mop heads are to be washed and reused, run one cycle of clear water through the washing machine before doing other laundry.

For more tips on eliminating lead in your home, plus more information on lead poisoning symptoms and treatments, visit idph.state.il.us.

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