Decades ago, federal law pounded shut the sale of a lead-based paint. But researchers are more concerned than ever about lead poisoning among children.
Doctors have long documented lead's damaging effects. They knew exposure could damage the brain and nervous system. But a new study says lead can also delay puberty and lower IQ scores. In addition to triggering headaches and hearing problems, doctors now say lead leads to behavioral problems like hyperactivity and delinquency.
Dr. William Kilby of the Valley Childrens Clinic says, "Once the lead is there, it can remain there for years and years."
Kilby tests all of his one and two-year-old patients for lead poisoning. He says early detection is key. Across the state, a universal blood lead level screening program is in place.
"There is so much older housing in the area we usually screen every one," Kilby says.
Kids often are poisoned by eating lead paint chips from homes built before 1978. But home renovations could also be a problem, stirring up harmful lead dust.
Harrisonburg building officials haven't seen much of a problem lately. "If there's not a complaint about something, we don't go out and look for it," says city inspector Jud Baldwin.
But the Centers for Disease Control says about one million U.S. children still suffer from lead exposure in substandard housing. But new research says that's too low of a number and that so-called "safe" levels of lead are still dangerous.
You can cut down on lead dangers in your home by damp-mopping floors and surfaces often, washing your child's hands and toys and using only cold water from the tap.
You may also be at risk for lead poison if your hobbies include making stained glass, fishing line sinkers or black powder ammunition.
Contact your doctor or health department if you have concerns.