Lead poisoning is unfortunately common and dangerous if undetected. It is especially dangerous for children. Thankfully, it is also very easily preventable.
Lead is poisonous when it gets into our bodies, either through inhalation or ingestion. No amount of lead in our bodies is safe and there is no cure for lead poisoning. Unfortunately, the Twin Cities have the highest rate of elevated blood lead levels relative to the rest of the state. That might sound bleak, but there is good news — lead poisoning is very easy to prevent!
Who Is At Risk?
Lead is poisonous to everyone, but some are more vulnerable than others. Children six and under are especially at-risk since their bodies are still developing. Lead can also be passed from pregnant women to the baby, which puts them at higher risk as well.
Adults who work in certain industries, such as construction where they might encounter lead-based paint, are also at higher risks. Furthermore, they run the risk of accidentally exposing family at home.
Additionally, people living under the federal poverty line and communities of color are at disproportionate risk. Lead paint was legal in the United States until 1978, which means that older buildings may still have lead paint. If your house or building is older than that, it’s not guaranteed to have lead-based paint, but it is more likely.
How Do I Know If Lead Has Affected Me or My Family?
Symptoms of lead poisoning may not show up right away. The problem is that if symptoms are appearing, then there’s probably dangerous amounts of lead in the body already. Still, recognizing them if you see them is very important.
Signs and Symptoms in Children
- Developmental delays
- Learning difficulties
- Hearing loss
- Abdominal pain
- Fatigue and sluggishness
- Eating things that aren’t food, such as paint chips
In Newborns Potentially Exposed Before Birth
- Premature birth
- Slow growth
- Lower birth weight
- High blood pressure
- Joint and muscle pain
- Difficulties with memory or concentration
- Abdominal pain
- Miscarriage, stillbirth, or premature birth in pregnant women
How Do I Test For Lead Poisoning Before Seeing Symptoms?
If you have reason to think you or your family have been exposed to lead (or if you simply want to be cautious), there’s several ways to get tested.
Blood tests are the most accurate way to know, as lead accumulates in the bloodstream. It’s best to get children tested at 12 months of age as a precaution. It’s especially important in the Twin Cities — due to the higher rates, children simply living in the Cities would be considered at-risk.
The main method of testing is a capillary, or finger prick, test. Sustainable Resource Center, who we collaborated with on our recent lead poisoning webinar, offers free capillary testing to children six and under at screening events. They’re a great local resource for lead testing and questions. You can call their Lead Line at (612) 870-4255.
Otherwise, consult with your healthcare provider about getting tests done. You don’t have to suspect exposure or experience symptoms to get tested — it’s a good precaution to take just to be sure.
Household Objects That May Contain Lead
Some items that may be common in South Asian households, especially Indian households, have been found to contain lead. Kumkum/sindoor has been found to contain lead quite frequently.
Certain brands of surma/kohl/kajal have been found to contain lead as well. Some common makers of turmeric have also been recalled due to lead content, such as Spice Select, Market Pantry, and Spice Supreme.
What Are We Doing About It?
SEWA-AIFW has collaborated with Hennepin County to get some of your kitchen items tested for lead. You can bring in samples of spices and any ceramic cookware you might eat/cook with and we’ll get it tested for you!
Here’s how it works:
- Pack a small sample of each of the spices in your kitchen into separate plastic baggies.
- Ceramic items you cook/eat with
- Bring them either into our Lake Street or New Hope office.
Easy! We’ll get them tested and get them back to you if everything’s good.
Check out this graphic for the complete information:
For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Call Sustainable Resource Center‘s Lead Line at (612) 870-4255.