Has Your Child Been Exposed to Lead?
Lead poisoning creates a silent injury – you won’t necessarily know if you child has lead poisoning even when the blood lead levels are high. If your child has lead poisoning, you should find out where he or she has been exposed to the lead. The most common source of lead poisoning is from paint in the older houses and apartments. If your child has become lead poisoned your child deserves the opportunity to get fair compensation for the current and future harm that has been done.
Exposure to lead in housing poses a significant health risk to young children. Lead is a heavy metal used in many materials and products. When absorbed into the body, it is highly toxic to many organs and systems and seriously hinders the body’s neurological development. Lead is most harmful to children under age six because it is easily absorbed into their growing bodies and interferes with the developing brain and other organs and systems. Pregnant women and women of child-bearing age are also at increased risk, because lead ingested by the mother can cross the placenta and affect the unborn fetus.
Lead poisoning causes irreversible health effects and there is no cure for lead poisoning. At very low levels of exposure in children, lead causes reduced IQ and attention span, hyperactivity, impaired growth, reading and learning disabilities, hearing loss, insomnia, and a range of other health, intellectual, and behavioral problems. At low levels, lead poisoning may not present identifiable symptoms, and a blood test is the only way to know if a child is poisoned. At very high levels of exposure, which are now very rare in the U.S., lead poisoning can cause mental retardation, coma, convulsions, and even death.
At the Law Offices of Charles N. Rock in New York, we represent children throughout the northeast U.S. who suffer from the effects of lead poisoning. Contact us to schedule a free consultation with experienced lead poisoning lawyer Charles Rock.
Learn More About Lead Poisoning and Your Options
Lead poisoning of children is a complex topic. Our New York law firm handles many lead poisoning cases, so we understand how lead exposure happens and what can be done about it. We believe it is important to make sure parents understand issues such as:
- Signs and symptoms of lead poisoning: Lead poisoning is often invisible, but there are signs you can look out for to see whether your child is ingesting lead or may have been exposed to lead in the past.
- Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD): Lead poisoning is one of several factors that can cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children. This condition can make school and social life difficult.
- Learning disabilities: There are many types of neurological injuries children can suffer due to lead exposure, and these injuries can make it hard for them to understand information and express their ideas at school.
- How children get lead poisoning: Children are typically exposed to lead either through getting lead dust on their hands and then putting them in their mouths or through licking or chewing on surfaces that have lead paint on them.
- Testing your child and your home for lead: There are blood tests doctors can perform to determine whether there is lead in a child’s bloodstream. There are also testing kits you can use to detect lead in your home.
- Holding property owners accountable: Landlords, day care centers, schools and other property owners have legal responsibilities to prevent lead poisoning of children. If they fail in those responsibilities, they can often be made to pay for the harm they caused.
How Children Get Lead Poisoning
Until the 1960s, lead paint was considered the best kind of paint you could buy due to its shiny appearance. Many older buildings have been painted with lead at some point, and even if it has been painted over, it can still come to the surface. Reasons for this include:
- Friction surfaces such as door wells, windowsills and window frames can suffer from deterioration of the top coats of paint, exposing the older lead paint.
- Cracked and peeling paint can cause lead dust to come to the surface from lower levels.
Lead is a very heavy substance, so anytime lead dust gets into the air, it tends to fall to the ground and stay there. Children who crawl or play on the floor and then put their hands in their mouths can end up swallowing large amounts of lead over time.
Does Your Child Lick or Chew Painted Surfaces?
The other major way children get lead poisoning is licking or chewing on paint chips, windowsills, door frames and other surfaces that have paint on them. Lead tastes good, which is why many young children get in the habit of licking or chewing things that have lead on them.
Also, many children have a condition called pica where they are drawn to putting things in their mouth that aren’t food. In some situations, this condition is harmless, but when items with lead on them are available, it can cause lead poisoning.
Detecting Lead Poisoning Early to Avoid Further Harm
If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to lead contact your health care provider. Your child’s health care provider can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated blood lead level. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell if your child has an elevated lead level. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
By getting a blood test performed on your child and testing surfaces in your home for lead, you can take a positive step toward avoiding lead exposure and holding your landlord or another responsible party accountable for exposing your child to lead poisoning.
Getting Your Child Tested for Lead in the Bloodstream
In some places, blood testing for lead is a routine practice. For instance, in New York, if a child lives in an area with older housing stock, pediatricians are required by State regulations to perform lead blood testing at the age of one. In other areas, this may not be required.
Some doctors perform lead blood tests as a routine part of pediatric care, even when not required to do so. Parents can also request these tests.
If your doctor detects lead in your child’s blood, he or she may ask you to return for another test within three months, or he or she may immediately report the test results to the health department so your home can be tested for lead.
Testing Painted Surfaces for Lead Exposure
You can also perform a lead test in your own home. Lead testing kits are available in many hardware stores. These kits contain material that will turn color if you rub it against a surface with exposed lead. It may also be possible to test your child’s day care center or school.
If your child or anyplace where your child spends a lot of time tests positive for lead, you should contact your doctor and the health department to find out what to do next.
What to Look for if You’re Concerned About Lead Poisoning
One of the most frightening things about lead poisoning is that it can be invisible for years before any symptoms show up. Because of the risk of delaying treatment and removing the child from the source of the lead hazard, the laws and regulations for landlords to inspect and for doctors to test and provide anticipatory guidance to parents are strict.
For young children, the neurological system is a fast-growing part of the body. Lead exposure interferes with this growth and development process. Doctors are not sure exactly how this happens, but they know that lead poisoning causes effects such as:
- Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
- Learning disabilities
- Frustration and behavioral problems
- Difficulty expressing thoughts
Understanding the Impact of Lead Poisoning on Learning
Long-term lead poisoning frequently causes neurological injuries that can do serious harm to a child’s ability to learn and function in school. If your child is affected by lead poisoning, he or she may be having a hard time with skills that are essential to learning, such as:
- Paying attention and concentrating
- Understanding what others say or write
- Expressing thoughts
- Processing information
Learning disabilities caused by lead poisoning can make it increasingly difficult for a child to keep up with the progress his or her peers are making in the classroom. In severe cases, children are unable to complete high school, which affects their ability to get employment.