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NC Organizations Provide Tips for Avoiding Childhood Lead Exposure

New website helps parents & pediatricians understand local lead risks

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. – A new website helps parents and pediatricians understand the risks of lead exposure in their local communities. The website has launched to coincide with National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, which begins today through Oct. 31.

Launched by NC Child, the website includes a lead risk map that highlights areas in the state where children are most likely to be exposed to lead in their homes.

In North Carolina and nationally, lead testing of young children has dropped significantly in 2020. Many parents have put off regular well-child visits due to the coronavirus. However, missing critical screenings and vaccinations can pose an even greater risk. 

“Even at the lowest levels of exposure, lead can reduce IQ and harm children’s ability to concentrate and focus in school. The effects are permanent and can affect a child’s long-term health outcomes,” said Dr. Christoph Diasio, a pediatrician in Southern Pines and president of the NC Pediatric Society.

Lead-based paint continues to be the biggest source of children’s lead exposure - particularly in homes or apartments built before 1978. The website provides parents with easy, straightforward steps to make sure little ones are safe from legacy lead in their homes.  

Another cause of exposure is lead in drinking water. The Clean Water for Carolina Kids program is currently testing for lead in drinking water at licensed child care centers across the state that are open or under reduced operating conditions. School and center closures due to the COVID-19 pandemic are at particular risk, however.

“Lead can build up in water as it stagnates in the pipes,” notes Jennifer Hoponick Redmon,  a senior environmental health scientist and chemical risk assessment specialist at RTI International. “Centers and schools really need to make sure that they flush every tap before opening buildings back up to keep children from ingesting large pulses of lead upon reentry.”

"Testing children for lead exposure at their well visits is also as important as ever. One of the challenges with lead exposure is that young children often don’t exhibit early warning signs to their parents,” said Redmon. “Skipping a pediatric visit because of the pandemic may result in a missed opportunity to identify an issue and prevent additional exposure."

Organizations across the state are participating in Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. This annual effort is sponsored by the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to increase awareness of the risks of lead exposure, particularly to young children and pregnant women.

To learn more, visit:  www.LeadFreeNC.org