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Omaha Lead Registry
Omaha Lead Registry

Lead and My Child

Underline

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 and 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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Gotlead screening

Screening

The only way to positively impact the outcome of possible lead exposure is to detect and intervene early.

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Screening provides important data. It is the testing of blood lead levels to assess how well children are being protected from lead poisoning. Until communities become lead free and exposure can be prevented, children need to be regularly screened. Testing is recommended until about seven-years-old especially if a child lives in or regularly visits a home built before 1978, a home that needs repair, or a home with the original windows and porch. Additional screening might benefit children in an affected home observed ingesting items of concern or those at the age where they frequently put their hands in their mouth.

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Gotlead testing

Testing

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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The only way to avoid these expenses is testing and proactive measures to prevent and reduce exposure. A simple blood test can detect blood lead levels and there is no safe level of lead in a child’s body. In 2014 over 1,200 children in Omaha tested positive for unsafe blood lead levels. Although often tested until seven years of age, children are particularly vulnerable under three years of age while pregnant women must be cautious about as well. If there is a history of potential lead exposure for a child, the risk or need for testing must be evaluated to assess the need for a blood test. Blood test results and certain demographic information are reported to track demographic patterns in lead exposure.

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Gotlead treatment

Treatment

There is no traditional medication to cure the symptoms of lead exposure.

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The first step in treatment is to remove or reduce the source of the contamination. This means assessing the point of exposure (whether it be home, school, daycare or a family member’s home) and addressing the issues directly. Doing everything possible to help children avoid potential exposure is important and can reduce their blood lead levels. Chelation therapy is recommended in drastic cases but most lead poisoning can be treated by reducing exposure and a healthy diet rich in calcium, iron and vitamin C. Doctors may recommend supplements in certain cases since lead in the blood affects absorption of these nutrients.

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Gotlead intervention

Intervention

Consistent testing and 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 free household, community, city and state.

Lead exposure disproportionally affects children in communities of color, low-income households, the elderly, 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 on every dollar.

Resources

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Omaha Healthy Kids Alliance