Lead: the silent danger on your walls

Lead is a toxic metal. Unborn babies and young children are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Even low levels of lead exposure have been shown to affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement later in life.

In some countries, lead is still allowed to be added to wall paint. In others it used to be allowed and therefore it is still on walls which were not painted recently.

What is lead poisoning?
Lead poisoning occurs when you absorb too much lead by breathing or swallowing a substance with lead in it, such as paint, dust, water, or food. Since the effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected, it’s very important to ensure #baby is not exposed to lead in the first place.

Why is lead harmful?
Lead can damage almost every organ system. In children, too much lead in the body can cause lasting problems with growth and development. These can affect behavior, hearing, and learning and can slow the child’s growth. 

What causes lead poisoning?
Some countries such as Thailand is one of the few countries in the world that still allows lead in wall paint. The most common source of lead exposure for children in the nation is, therefore, lead-based paint and the dust and soil that are contaminated by it. Other sources include contaminated air, water, and soil. 

Wall paint with lead reduces IQ
There is research that suggests that the low IQ levels of children in certain Thai provinces, might be attributed to the lead-based wall paint used in many homes and schools. 

Who is at highest risk of lead poisoning?
Children under the age of 6 years old are at high risk. Their bodies absorb lead at a higher rate and their brains are still developing quickly. They also might chew paint that flakes off walls and woodwork, and they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths 

What are the symptoms?
Lead poisoning can be hard to detect and are easy to miss because other diseases can cause the same symptoms. In children, symptoms can include:

  • Slightly lower intelligence 
  • Smaller size when compared to children of the same age
  • Behavior problems, such as acting angry, moody, or hyperactive
  • Lack of energy, and not feeling hungry

How is lead poisoning diagnosed?
If your doctor suspects lead poisoning, he will do a blood test to find out the amount of lead in the blood. However, most children with lead poisoning don’t have symptoms until their blood lead levels are very high. 

Is all lead-free paint safe?
Unfortunately, many paint brands that are marketed as “mercury- and lead-free” actually contained lead, according to research from the University of Waterloo.

Tips to limit the exposure to lead

  • Repaint rooms where kids play and bedroom with natural wall paint, which the manufacturer can confirm that it is 100% lead-free — note that pregnant women should avoid removing old paint by herself because of the risk of lead exposure
  • If you suspect that you have lead-based paint on your walls, and repainting is not an option, use a wet cloth to wipe the walls thoroughly
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint
  • Always keep your home clean and wash your kids’ hands and toys often — clean dusty surfaces with a wet cloth
  • Be sure to consume enough iron and calcium in your diets — good nutrition can help reduce the amount of lead that’s absorbed by the bodies

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