What To Do About Elevated Lead Levels

Huck recently had his 9 month well visit and while we were there, he had his finger pricked to test for his blood iron and lead levels.

Iron is good, lead is bad, right? Iron levels are influenced by a diet of red meats, certain leafy vegetables, and beans. Having good iron levels are important for an active brain and healthy body. Lead, on the other hand, is not so good to have in a baby’s body. Elevated lead levels can lead to learning disabilities and aggression, among other things.

And it turns out, babies with high lead levels are incredibly common in Manhattan, thanks to all those prewar buildings we’re all clamoring to live in. And at Huck’s 9 month well visit we discovered he may be one of them. (More often than not an elevated lead level is the result of an error in testing, especially when the elevated levels are as low as Huck’s–too low to even be treated, just “monitored.”)

So, what do you do? Well, I’ve done a ton of research on this by now, hah. More after the jump.

Obviously, when we first got news that my baby may have been exposed to lead, I got a little upset and very worried. Just two months ago, the lobby of our prewar building was renovated. Layers and layers of old wall were removed and repainted, and the elevator and lobby were a dust zone for weeks. Of course it didn’t occur to me then that all of that dust was a case of lead poisoning waiting to happen! (Nor did it occur to the super, any of the maintenance guys, or the management office. “Oops!”)

The good news is, lead levels are entirely treatable. If the levels are high enough, there are suppositories (fun!), and with reduced exposure to lead, your baby’s levels will go down. So, what causes it?

Any lead in your baby’s body is getting there via ingestion only, according to Huck’s pediatrician. So that means your baby can’t inhale it by merely walking through a construction zone, or by visiting someone’s home if they have lead-based paint (though if any lead particles in the dust in the air happen to land on your baby’s toys, or if your baby, say, licks the wall, well, there you have it).

The best way to minimize exposure to lead is to wet mop your home. Once every other day, take a damp rag and wipe down all surfaces, all walls, all floors. The goal is to pick up any and all lead-bearing dust particles before your baby’s tongue can find them.

Additionally, once a week you should round up all your baby’s toys (or any non toys that repeatedly make their way into baby’s mouth). Run stuffed animals through the wash, and give all plastics a bath in hot, soapy water. Make sure to read packaging labels very carefully before bringing new toys home, even this day and age. Plenty of toys are still being made with lead and slipping through the cracks, so employ a healthy sense of scrutiny and skepticism.

Incidences of increased lead levels in the water are rare, according to our pediatrician. I verified that one at least three times this morning. (“And you’re sure it’s not the water?”) But if you’re worried about lead in your pipes (and you live in an older building like we do), you can run the tap for a full ten seconds before filling up a glass or the bath. For drinking water, buy a Brita or install a filtration system. (I’ve read that the Pur system is one of the few that does filter lead.)

When all else fails, you can thank your lucky stars you are moving to a newer, not prewar building, in just over a month. (Thank heavens!)

So, what about you? Have you had any experience with lead?

(Luckily, I’m pretty sure all our parents did, and, you know, most of them turned out fine.)

 

 

 

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