Lead & Your Children

Who is at risk?

Children aged 0 – 5 years of age are at the greatest risk of developing health issues from elevated blood lead levels as lead is toxic to the human body. Children absorb a higher proportion of swallowed lead than adults.

Young children are at higher risk of lead absorption as they tend to put things into their mouths, including toys, dummies and their hands, picking things up off of floors which may have lead dust on them.

Statistics from the two Queensland Health Bled for Lead campaigns show that Indigenous children are at a very high risk of elevated blood lead levels, due to low socioeconomic factors.

Children absorb lead dust through ingestion into their stomach, which travels into the blood stream, so it is important to reduce the amount of lead dust your child has access to.

How are my children most likely to be exposed to lead?

There are a number of exposure sources that young children are more susceptible to than adults. These include:

  • Dust containing lead – A significant source of lead can come from dust that enters the home environment via prevailing winds that blow dust containing lead from the smelter.
  • Lead based paint – Although much less prevalent now, an important source of lead exposure in older homes was contact with interior or exterior surfaces that had been painted with lead-based paints. Children could be exposed to lead by eating chips that fall off the walls as the paint ages, by chewing on painted cribs, or by breathing dust when paint is sanded off walls during renovation.
  • Home renovating – Particularly in older homes where paint containing lead was used and where lead dust may have accumulated over a period of time in wall cavities or in ceilings.
  • Physical contact with contaminated people, clothing items and vehicles – Employees and contractors working at a mine site are at risk of taking lead particles off site on their body, via their hair, hands, clothing, boots and vehicles. As such strict personal hygiene and site work protocols are in place to ensure this “take home” lead exposure is minimised.
  • Rain water – Can be an exposure source if used for drinking and cooking purposes.  Boiling rain water does not remove lead and does not reduce contamination from lead.

What is the risk to my child’s health?

If your child is exposed to high levels of lead they are at risk of developing the following health issues:

  • May effect the development of organs systems such as the brain and central nervous systems
  • May cause hearing and cognitive impairment, at this young age the child’s brain is still developing, lead may cause irreversible intelligence loss, causing lower IQ
  • May cause behavioural changes, poor attention, hyperactivity, depression and anxiety

How do I reduce the risk to my child?

The Lead Alliance recommend the following to ensure that the risk of elevated blood lead levels in your children is greatly reduced, incorporating our key message – Wet Wipe, Wash & Eat Well:

  • Wet wipe all kitchen benches and work tops to remove lead dust, especially before preparing meals and snacks for your children and family. Use a wet cloth and rinse the cloth regularly.
  • Wet mop all hard floor surfaces to remove the amount of lead dust that your crawling child can pick up. Regularly rinse the mop during cleaning. If you have carpeted surfaces a vacuum with a HEPA filter system is the best vacuum to remove lead dust from carpets. It is recommended that you remove young children from the room when vacuuming or sweeping floors as dust can be deposited back into the air.
  • Wash your hands especially before preparing family meals. It is essential that you wash and teach your children to wash and dry their hands regularly throughout the day, especially before eating, after playing outside and petting animals. Lead dust on a child’s hands has been directly linked to high blood lead levels. Discourage your child from eating dirt when playing outside, the dirt may contain lead dust.
  • Eat well, a child with an empty stomach will absorb more lead than a child that has regular healthy meals and snacks throughout the day. Children will absorb 50% more lead than an adult. The Lead Alliance has developed many healthy eating recipe books, information on diet and nutrition is available on this site: DIET AND LEAD ABSORPTION.
  • Regularly wash your child’s toys to reduce the amount of lead dust on them. Young children have a tendency to put things into their mouths, this hand to mouth behaviour is how they ingest lead dust.
  • For young babies, safely pin their dummies to their clothing to prevent it falling onto the ground and collecting lead dust.
  • Information on how to reduce the amount of lead dust in your home is available on this site: LEAD AND YOUR HOME.

If you require further information FREE CALL the Lead Alliance on 1800 457 547.