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Omaha Lead Registry
Omaha Lead Registry

Lead and My Child

To prevent lead exposure in all children in Omaha.

 

Children are the joy and heartbeat of a home. Protecting children and keeping them safe means empowering families, landlords, teachers and caregivers around lead exposure risks at home, daycare and school. Lead is a significant environmental health hazard and can cause physical, developmental, psychological, and cognitive issues in children. Potential lead sources include water, air, soil, paint, and dust. Lead dust is often on floors, window sills and toys so it is more accessible to small children. By focusing on education, prevention and action we can enhance a child’s path to success and increase the focus on public health and community wellness.

Childhood lead exposure is still a critical public health issue. Awareness as well as proactive and preventative measures are crucial to keep children safe. Once a child’s health or cognition has been harmed by lead exposure the effects can continue into adulthood. The effects of lead toxicity in children are costly to the individual, families, communities, and schools. Reduced cognitive potential and productivity can lead to lower wages and financial strain.

 

Effects

An amount of lead the size of three grains of sugar is enough to poison a child.

The environmental sources of childhood lead exposure include soil, air, water, lead dust (on toys, pets, floors, window sills), paint and food. Lead is a toxin that can cause physical problems in children including: kidney damage, hearing loss, headaches, stomach aches, nausea and joint pain. It can also cause cognitive distress including brain damage, lowered IQ, learning disabilities, impulse control issues, and mental health issues that can lead to crime, low graduation rates, substance abuse and low employability.

Stomach

Stomach Aches

Head

Headaches

Ears

Hearing Loss

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Blood Lead Testing

Most children with too much lead in their bodies do not seem sick or have symptoms. The only way to know for sure if your child has an elevated blood lead level is to get a blood lead test. A blood lead test is a simple procedure where a small amount of blood is drawn from either the finger or a vein in the arm. The sample is then tested/analyzed for lead.

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A blood sample obtained by a finger stick (“capillary test”) is used to screen for elevated blood lead levels. In the event that an elevated blood lead level ≥ (greater than or equal to) 3.5 micrograms per deciliter (ug/dL)] is identified by the finger stick method, a physician will then request that another blood sample be obtained, this time from a vein in the arm (“venous test”). A venous test will provide more accurate blood lead levels which can be used by the physician to make treatment recommendations. Sometimes the appropriate course of action is to simply monitor the child’s blood lead levels at regular intervals.

The Douglas County Health Department recommends that children 84 months (7 years old) and younger be screened annually if:

  • They live in/visit regularly a home built before 1978
  • They live in the Omaha Lead Superfund site or the following zip codes: 68102, 68104, 68105, 68106, 68107, 68108, 68110, 68111, 68112, 68131, 68132
  • Parent/s or guardians/s work in a profession with lead exposure (i.e. painting, automotive, recycling, renovation, etc) or use lead for hobbies (ex. Stained glass)
  • Families use home remedies, imported products/spices, or cultural practice that may include lead

Douglas County Health Department also recommends that Pregnant or nursing women be screened for lead using the above criteria, since lead can harm to an unborn baby or child.
Adults who are exposed to lead through their work or hobbies should also be tested regularly.

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The Burden of Lead Poisoning

During a six year period, the national cost of lead poisoning includes testing and treatment, lost earnings and tax revenue, special education costs, lead-linked ADHD cases and criminal activity for a total of $192-270 billion.

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A study published in JAMA on January 23,2019 found that childhood lead exposure may have long-term consequences for adult mental health and personality. In this longitudinal cohort study of 579 New Zealand children followed up for more than 30 years, greater lead exposure in childhood was significantly associated with greater psychopathology across the life course and with difficult personality traits in adulthood.

“The Effect of Lead Exposure on Autism Development”, a review published in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2021) highlights the connection between lead exposure and the furthering of comorbidities associated with autism. “The scientific findings discussed in this review corroborate the occurrence of several autistic symptoms subsequent to excessive lead exposure, including a decline in intelligence scores, social interaction, memory, and language.”

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Available Services through Douglas County Health Department

The Douglas County Health Department (DCHD) through a cooperative agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides free lead inspections in pre-1978 homes where children 84 months (7 years old) and younger live or frequently visit, regardless of blood lead level. Priority is however given to homes with children with elevated blood lead levels.

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DCHD also provides free testing vouchers and other testing options/recommendations for children who do not have access to testing services.

DCHD also provides free testing vouchers and other testing options/recommendations for children who do not have access to testing services.

DCHD also provides FREE education, interior dust wipe sampling and a HEPA vacuum to residences that have had the soil replaced due to high lead concentrations by the EPA or the City of Omaha.

Click here for residents who are interested in learning more about lead poisoning or call DCHD’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 402-444-7825.

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Intervention

Consistent focus on the medical, environmental and social care of children is crucial to address and solve this public health crisis.

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Accessible information and education is where intervention begins. Parents, childcare providers and teachers must all be aware of the symptoms and warning signs of lead exposure. If there are physical, behavioral, or cognitive challenges, it is important to acknowledge the possibility of lead exposure as a cause. Early detection, intervention and follow-up for lead exposed children could increase the likelihood they graduate from high school and college, increase their lifetime income and decrease their potential for criminal activity. Reducing and eliminating lead exposure is the first and most important step in becoming a lead-safe household, community, city and state.

Eating a diet rich in healthy vitamins and minerals can make any lead that is in a child’s body more difficult to absorb. Children should follow a diet that includes foods from the main foods groups:

  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Grains
  • Dairy
  • Protein

Including these foods will not only decrease lead absorption into a child’s bones, but it will also

  • Promote health
  • Prevent the onset of chronic disease
  • Provide the foundation for healthy eating in adulthood

Selecting foods high in calcium, iron and vitamin C are very important when it comes to elevated blood lead levels.

Calcium helps support strong bones and may reduce lead absorption. Good sources of calcium include:

  • Milk and milk products, like yogurt and cheese
  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens
  • Canned salmon

Low iron has been linked to high levels of lead in the blood, so eating foods rich in iron might help minimize lead absorption. Good sources of iron include:

  • Beef, lamb, chicken, and eggs
  • Beans and lentils
  • Leafy greens like spinach, kale, and collard greens
  • Raisins and prunes
  • Cereal (check for cereal that is “fortified”)

Vitamin C may help decrease lead in the body by helping the body absorb iron better. It also aids in a healthy immune system. Good sources of vitamin C include:

  • Oranges
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Cantaloupes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli

Sources:
https://www.eatright.org/health/wellness/preventing-illness/how-to-fight-lead-exposure-with-nutrition
https://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/Dietary_Guidelines_for_Americans-2020-2025.pdf

Lead exposure disproportionally affects children in communities of color, low-income households, and disabled people.

Lower income children are eight times more likely to have increased blood lead levels. African American children are five times more likely to experience lead poisoning than Caucasian children. Ensuring lead hazard education is far reaching, accessible, and available to all is a crucial step toward keeping our children lead free.

Helping families find the root causes of lead exposure (dust, old plumbing, household products, soil, water) and eliminating those risks means protecting our children. Preventing childhood lead exposure is good for a city’s health and financial well-being. Investing in lead hazard information and control results in health, educational, and other societal savings of at least a $17 return for every dollar spent.

Resources

 

 

 

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See if your home has ever been tested for lead:

Omaha Lead Registry