How to Avoid Lead Poisoning in Refugee and Immigrant Communities

Preventing Lead Poisoning in
Refugee & Immigrant Communities Lead Lead is a poison that can hurt your children. You can’t see it or smell it, but
it can be found in many places. So how do you know if your child
has been in contact with lead? Answer these questions: Has your family, or your
child, ever lived outside of the United States, or have you recently arrived
from a foreign country? Does your family live in, or does your
child regularly spend time in an older house or building with peeling or chipping paint? Has this building recently been
repaired or are repairs being planned? If you answered “YES” to any of these questions,
then your child already may be at risk for lead poisoning and should
be tested for lead. So what is this poison called “Lead”? Lead is a metal found in the earth. In the past, lead was added to gasoline,
paint, plumbing and many other everyday things. Lead is no longer used in gas in the United
States, but in other countries it is still used. Unfortunately, lead may also
be in some brand new products. As these things are used or get worn out,
the lead contained in them can spread into house dust, air, water,
food, and even the soil. Lead gets inside the human body through
eating or drinking or even breathing, and when it does, lead acts as a poison. Children under six years old are
the most likely to be lead poisoned because they put so many things in their mouth. And lead is more harmful to children than adults
because it can affect a young child’s nerves and brain while they’re still growing. Lead poisoning can happen quickly, or lead can
build up slowly over time, without warning. Lead can harm both young children, and adults. In young children, it can affect
their behavior, and ability to learn, and even limit a young child’s growth. In adults, lead can hurt the brain,
kidneys, and nervous system. And at very high levels in children and adults, lead can cause permanent
brain damage and even death. The problem is lead is a “silent” poison. Children or adults may not show
any sign of lead poisoning. That means many people that are
lead poisoned do not look or act sick. The only way to know for sure if you or
your child has lead poisoning is a blood test, and I’ll talk about that easy process next. But some children who are lead poisoned
may have: upset stomach, trouble eating or sleeping, headache, trouble concentrating
or paying attention, irritability. As I said, the only way to know if your child or you are lead poisoned is
through a Blood Lead Level test. In a blood lead level test, a tiny
blood sample is taken from the finger or arm with a small needle. The test measures how much lead is in the blood. There is no “safe” level of lead, so the
lower the lead test result, the better. The blood test is so quick,
it doesn’t harm my child. Ask your doctor, Resettlement Worker or local health department
to find out where you can get this test. Because Blood Lead Level tests are the only
way to be sure, New York State has requirements about when children should be tested. I asked a New York State Department of Health, Health Program Administrator
to explain the requirements. Hi, I’m Ann Whitfield-Green,
Health Program Administrator with New York State Department of Health,
Lead Poisoning Prevention Program. Because Lead Poisoning is so dangerous, and
yet so preventable, New York State requires that children have a blood lead test
at age one and again at age two. Up until age six, at your child’s yearly check
up, the doctor should ask you several questions to see if your child could be
at risk for lead poisoning. If there’s a chance your child
has been in contact with lead, your child should get a blood lead test. And additionally, if you are a newly arrived
refugee, and if your child is 6 months to 16 years old and has recently
arrived in this country, the government recommends a blood
lead test at first entry to the United States. The government also recommends refugee children
up to the age of six be re-tested again in 3 to 6 months to be sure that they are not being
exposed to lead in their new environment. Older refugee children should also be
tested again if there has been a risk of their coming into contact with lead. Thanks Ann. As I said before, you can’t see or smell lead. So it’s important to learn where
lead is found, and how to avoid it. In New York State’s cities, most homes
and apartments were built before 1978. Before 1978, lead was added to paint,
but it was forbidden after 1978. However, most houses built before 1978 still
have old lead paint, often under newer paint. If the paint peels, cracks, or
is worn down, the chips and dust from the old lead paint can spread onto
floors, windowsills and all around the house. Most lead poisoning in children occurs when they
swallow or breathe in dust from old lead paint. Old lead paint dust gets onto children’s
hands and toys and into their bodies because young children put so
many things in their mouth. We wet-wipe to reduce
lead dust. If you have a choice,it’s best not to live in a home
that has peeling or chipping paint, especially if your family includes babies,
young children, or someone who is pregnant. Older homes should be tested for lead. If you rent or own your own home, contact
your local health department to learn more about how your home can be
inspected for lead hazards. If you rent your home, landlords must fix
peeling or damaged paint if lead is found. This work must be done safely, or dust
from the repairs could poison your family. If you rent your home, repairs should
first be approved by the owner. Even if you are properly trained, as a renter
you may not have the authority to make repairs. Children and pregnant women
should stay away from home repairs until the areas have been carefully
cleaned and cleared of lead hazards. Before any work is started on your
home, call your local health department about how the work should be done safely. The Department of Health
gave me lots of good information. Soil may ALSO
be poisoned from deposits of lead paint or soil near highways may
have high levels of lead from leaded gasoline car
exhaust and other sources. Children who play in the soil or come into
contact with soil that is “tracked in” to the home may become lead poisoned. Since dust and soil can often carry lead, one
of the most effective ways to reduce exposure to poison is to be sure to clean
your home at least once a week. Do not use a broom to clean
up dust or peeling lead paint. This can spread more dust into the air. It’s safer to wet wipe or damp
mop often to clean solid surfaces. Do not damp mop carpeting. Carpeting and rugs can trap dust and soil. Be sure to use a HEPA-filtered vacuum. A HEPA filter traps tiny pieces of lead dust and
helps stop lead dust from getting into the air. Vacuums without a HEPA filter
can spread dust into the air. If you do not have a HEPA filtered vacuum,
contact your local health department to learn more about them and how to find one. Be sure to clean in and around windows,
doorways, floors, and children’s play areas where dust enters. Another simple method to
reduce exposure to lead dust and soil is to wash often. Everyone in your family
should wash hands often with soap and water, especially before eating and sleeping. Also, wash children’s toys, bottles
and pacifiers with soap and water. Throw out old painted toys if you do
not know if the paint contains lead. Some jobs and hobbies can
involve contact with lead. These include: painting, plumbing,
construction, electrical, car repair, or working with firearms,
stained glass or pottery. If a family member works with lead,
or at a job that exposes them to lead, they should change clothes and shower
at the work site BEFORE they come home. They should use a door mat to wipe feet,
and take shoes off before coming inside. Both of these steps helps keep dirt and
dust that may contain lead out of your home. Finally, if they haven’t showered at work, they
should shower before playing with children, and wash their work clothes separately
from the rest of the household laundry. I wash work clothes separately
from rest of my family’s clothes. In addition to soil and dust, tap water
might also become contaminated when it comes into contact with lead. This may happen if it flows through
old lead pipes or brass fixtures. Boiling water does not remove lead from water. The best way to reduce exposure to lead
in water is by “flushing” water lines that have not been in use in the past few hours. This means to it run the tap until water is cold to the touch before using
it for drinking or cooking. And always use only cold water
for cooking and drinking. We let the cold water run before
we use it. Food may also become contaminated by lead in many ways:
If food comes into contact with lead-glazed ceramic dishes. Food from the solder on imported
cans of food also may contain lead. Lead has also been found in inks
used in some Mexican candy wrappers and in some tamarind candies sold in clay pots. Even some spices, such as imported
turmeric, can contain lead. It is best to avoid using
these dishes or containers. If you have any questions about
the spices or food in your home, contact your local health department. Be sure to feed your children foods that
will strengthen your child’s body, and help fight against lead poisoning. Give your child foods that are high in
calcium, iron and vitamin C. These are foods that help keep lead from being
stored in your child’s body. Foods with calcium include: milk, cheese,
yogurt, tofu, and green, leafy vegetables. Foods with iron include: beans, lean meat, and
fortified cereal. Foods with vitamin C include: oranges, orange juice, grapefruit,
tomatoes,and green peppers. Feed your children four to
six small meals a day. Children with full stomachs take in less lead. We eat many healthy snacks
in every day. And they are good for us. There are other products not made
in the United States that may contain lead, such as: some Ayurvedic, and other
traditional medicines and some home remedies, some imported metal jewelry, and some
cosmetics, even some imported toys. Throughout this video, we have mentioned
that if you have any questions about lead to ask your local Health Department. Remember, it only takes
a small amount of lead to poison a child. Lead Poisoning is one of the most common
preventable health problems for young children. It’s preventable, because we know what causes
it, and there is enough available information about how to reduce exposure to lead. These are the ways that we talked
about to lower your exposure to lead: Make sure that your children and
you get blood tested for lead. Talk with your child’s doctor or nurse, or call your local health department
listed in the phonebook blue pages. In New York City and Rochester, dial 311. Talk to your Resettlement Worker about
finding lead-safe housing for your family. Use simple house cleaning methods to help keep
lead dust levels down, and serve healthy foods and many small healthy snacks throughout the
day to keep young bodies from absorbing lead. For more information, please visit the New
York State Department of Health web site at:
Remember, your children will grow up healthier if you reduce their exposure to lead.

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