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How to Protect Your Baby from Lead Poisoning

Learn how to protect your baby from lead poisoning from pediatrician Dyan Hes, M.D. in this Howcast video about newborn and baby development.


I'm a practitioner in New York City where lead poisoning is quite a hot topic.

We have a lot of pre-war buildings in New York City, and a lot of old houses that have old lead paint.

Now when you move into a home with your child, you must have documentation that it's a lead free house. That means that either the lead paint was removed, or there was never lead paint in the house. If it's a new construction, there might not be lead paint.

The reason that lead paint is a problem is because lead is damaging to children in the developmental stages of their brain. Lead can be in the form of paint dust, or paint chips, and it cognitively impairs a child if the lead is ingested.

You often see a picture of a little child or a toddler standing by a window ledge, and biting on the edge of the window ledge. In the old days, those ledges were made of lead based paint, and the child would ingest those lead chips, and become lead poisoned.

We routinely check a child in New York City between nine and twelve months, and again at two years for lead in the blood. Every city and every state has different guidelines for lead poisoning, but all paint in the United States should be lead free.

We also have to be careful of lead in paint that's used to paint toys. Often cheap toys that are coming from abroad, the factories are using lead based paint. Those are supposed to have been eliminated in the United States. There are a lot of toys that come from abroad, from Asia, and you really want to make sure that the paint is not chipping, and that your child's not putting that toy in their mouth, and then notice it, and you notice that the paint is chipped off.

Lead poisoning can cause cognitive impairment, and it can cause a form of anemia. It's very important that you make sure that your child is lead screened at age one year and at age two years. We check lead in two ways. You can do a finger stick, which is a capillary blood test that's a screening test. If that test is okay, then we don't do another test like a venipuncture. Your doctor might chose just to take blood from the vein at age one and age two to make sure there is no lead poisoning. You should discuss this with your pediatrician.

If you see peeling paint in your apartment, please notify your landlord, or if you're the owners please take care of it because peeling paint is a source for the children to go peel it off, and put it in their mouths.

Peeling paint is also a sign of lead based paint, so if you go into a house, an old apartment either that your grandmother lived in, or that's an estate sale, old apartment. You'll go in and you'll see, it's just millions of cracks in the paint, and the ceiling and they're all chipping down. That's really a red flag, and a clue that the paint has lead in it.

Just make sure that this is a discussion in your household, and that you've documented lead free paint in your building.

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