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Lead Paint Poisoning
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Lead Paint Dust Poses Toxic Risk To Kids

Doctor: Even Small Amounts Can Affect Brain Development

May 20, 2003 | Researchers recently announced that even lower levels of lead exposure are far more toxic than previously thought and it very well may have made itself at home in your home.

Aaron is 5-years-old. He struggles with learning and his mother, Norberta, says he is not as active as he once was. She says these effects are from lead poisoning but what she never expected was that the poison was inside her home.

Lead was common in house paint up until 1978. Statistics show that in Los Angeles County there are over 2.5 million homes built before 1980 that could contain lead paint, according to the Western Center of Law and Poverty.

Now, 25 years later, the danger is dust especially dust that is created from opening and closing windows and doors in older homes.

"Children get lead poison from eating it. From putting things in their mouth that have dust on it... putting their hands in their mouths," said pediatrician Harvey Karp.

Even small levels of lead can have an effect on a child's developing brain, according to Karp, who is an expert in the area of children's environmental health.

A recent study found that a child's IQ could drop 7.5 points, even if their blood lead level was under 10 micrograms per deciliter, which is the level currently deemed safe by the government.

"It's amazing how little led it takes to raise the blood level. A 10-microgram level could be attained just by a miniscule, microscopic amount of dust," said Karp.

Liseth Martinez also knows a lot about lead dust danger.

"It can hit any family could be low income, middle income or high income," Martinez said.

For her family, lead dust came from an attempt to do some renovating.

"My husband got carried away when he was doing the fixing up," said Martinez.

The result was excessive amounts of lead dust on the floor.

To be safe Martinez bought a home kit and tests for lead herself. She keeps her young daughter away from the dust and washes her hands regularly throughout the day.

Because lead is such a hazard, getting rid of it is serious business. Rooms are wrapped in plastic to contain the toxic dust and the old paint is "wet-scraped" away. The shavings and dust are immediately disposed of.

Progress has been made in recent years, and while millions remain at risk, the number of children with lead poisoning is decreasing but that is little comfort to Norberta as she tries to deal with the damage lead has already done to her son.

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