Cradle Your Baby from Lead Exposure

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State Health Department announces "Cradle your Baby from Lead Exposure" lead poisoning prevention education campaign for children and pregnant women.

Lead poisoning is one of the most common and preventable health problems for children today. In a step toward eliminating the threat of lead poisoning for Missouri children, the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) is introducing a new public health campaign called "Cradle Your Baby From Lead Exposure."

The campaign is designed to encourage parents of young children and parents-to-be to learn more about childhood lead poisoning and to take an active role in preventing lead poisoning among children and pregnant mothers. Campaign materials about the importance of screening and the risk of lead exposure have been distributed to all local public health departments statewide. Materials will be available for children, pregnant women and local health care providers.

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"Lead poisoning is still a public health risk for Missouri children and unborn babies. DHSS is making headway in the fight against lead poisoning, but we have a long way to go to reach our goal of totally eliminating the threat in this state," said Susan Thomas, head of DHSS's Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. "This campaign is about informing parents and getting them actively involved in protecting their children, before they are born, and keeping them safe from lead poisoning throughout childhood."

Thomas said that every year approximately 310,000 children across the United States are at risk for lead poisoning. In 2005, more than 2,100 Missouri children less than six years of age were identified with elevated blood lead levels (EBLs). However, countless children with blood lead poisoning go undetected because they are not tested. That means those children will continue to be exposed to lead and their condition could worsen. An elevated blood lead level is considered to be a blood-test result of 10 micrograms of lead per one deciliter of blood, but there are no safe levels of lead in a child's blood.

Lead poisoning can even begin before a child is born. A woman can be exposed to lead in many of the same ways a child can, and a pregnant woman who has lead in her body can pass it to her unborn baby. This puts the baby at risk for lead poisoning. Women who are pregnant or have children under six, are encouraged to ask their healthcare provider about screening for lead exposure.

The most common way children are lead poisoned is from exposure to lead paint, which is commonly found in homes built before 1978. In Missouri, about 67 percent of all houses were built in this time period. Disturbing the lead paint allows dust to settle on toys, windowsills and floors. Children can then breathe in or swallow lead dust and paint chips. Children may also be exposed to lead through vinyl mini blinds made outside the U.S., home or folk remedies such as Azarcon and Greta, calcium supplements, imported food and candy, eating or mouthing non-food objects, living in a current or historical lead smelting area, playing in contaminated bare soil, or living with someone who works with or has hobbies using lead.

Lead affects nearly every system in the body. Some health effects may include: learning disabilities; behavior disorders; lowered IQ; developmental delay; slowed growth; hearing loss; and hyperactivity. Lead poisoning often occurs with no obvious symptoms, and some symptoms are the same as those of more common illnesses. The effects of lead poisoning may have life-long impacts.

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