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What You Should Know About Lead
by Sheila Saucier
(protected by copyright-for personal use only)

Lead, the toxic metal known to be harmful to man, has been sneaking unoticed into the bloodstreams of millions of Americans over many years. It seeps insidiously into our water risking the lives of our unborn and our children, often going unnoticed until it's too late. It enters our homes on the feet of every occupant, picked up from the soil outside. It can cover the work clothes of mechanics, plumbers, lead smelter workers, and other high risk occupations. The same clothes that we wash along with our children's clothes, unknowingly endangering them.

Lead is an invisible enemy, often in the form of simple dust that enters our home. Dust that can be both inhaled or ingested especially by young children who tend to put everything in their mouths.

In other words lead poisoning is still a very real threat present in our environment, damaging the brains and nervous system of many of it's victims, the majority of which are children.

Of great concern is our water supply. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) estimates that about forty two million Americans use household water that contains unsafe levels of lead. Precisely, levels in excess of 15 ppb (parts per billion), which is the highest recommended safety level. However, there is no truly safe level of lead, because it does not belong in the human body, and it does not leave our bodies once it has entered. Instead, it is stored just like calcium and other minerals in the bone matter where it continues to build up over our lifetime.

It's no wonder that as many as one out of eleven children in the United States have dangerously high levels of lead in their bloodstream according to the EPA. Some other sources suggest this number is as great as one in eight children!

As hard as this is to believe, the facts are very real. Lead is decreasing the I.Q.'s of many young victims, creating learning disabilities, such as speech and behavior problems, not to mention hearing loss, muscular coordination problems, and much more.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that regular lead screening should be done on children up to age six, with the first test done between six to twelve months of age. However, it has been my personal experience that Pediatricians are not routinely checking for lead in children. Certainly none have ever suggested it to me, and my children have seen a dozen different Pediatrician's over the years.

It appears that few people really believe their families are at risk and feel their homes are safe. The reality is however, that your home's water probably does contain lead in some amount, and in fact, an estimated 10 million children receive significantly high amounts of lead in their drinking water in our country every day.

Following are some other common sources of lead.

  • bone china
  • crystal
  • painted surfaces
  • brass faucets
  • painted toys
  • antique pewter
  • foreign made crayons
  • ammunition, pellets
  • chalk
  • fruits
  • air
  • water
  • porcelain
  • earthenware
  • plastic mini-blinds
  • solder
  • stained glass
  • storage batteries
  • gasoline additives
  • water pipe corrosion
  • water pipe solder
  • vegetables
  • soil
  • dust

Today experts regard soldering as the major cause of lead contamination of household water in U.S. homes. New brass faucets and fittings can also leach lead during corrosion, even though they claim to be "lead free."

It's sad to note that the newer the home, the greater the risk of lead contamination. Why? Because normally, as time passes, mineral deposits form a coating on the inside of water pipes, (if the water is not corrosive.) This coating insulates the water from the lead-containing solder present. But during the first five years, before the coating forms, water is in direct contact with the lead and carries it into your home.

Some recent studies suggest that food is our main source of adult human exposure with as much as 60% of total ingested lead coming from the food we eat, air inhalation accounting for 30%, and water for 10%.

Children, pregnant women, and calcium deficient individuals are in the greatest risk group for lead toxicity. What's frightening to realize is that dangerously high levels of lead do not necessarily present any symptoms in children. So it's no surprise few Physicians or parents ever suspect lead toxicity in their children.

It's also interesting to note that many of the symptoms of ADHD, (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), mimic those of lead toxicity. I can't help but wonder how many children diagnosed with this disease may actually be lead toxic instead. Take a look at the symptoms that may or may not present themselves.


In children:
  • fatigue
  • crankiness
  • hyperactivity
  • convulsions
  • restlessness
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • stupor
  • constipation
  • poor appetite
  • behavior and learning problems
  • brain and nervous system damage
  • slowed growth
  • earing and speech problems
  • nausea/vomiting
  • abdominal pain
  • anemia
  • lack of muscular coordination


In adults:

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Copyright © 1997 by Sheila Blythe-Saucier. Founder and owner of Safety Net-Child Safety Consultants, Sheila Blythe-Saucier is in the business of protecting children from the hazards that exist in their homes and communities. An R.N. for the last 20 years, Sheila extensively researched and authored a child safety book, which lead to the development of her business. Through a home inspection covering over 600 hazards commonly found in and around homes with young children, parents receive an education on protecting their kids fully, in a few hours time. Visit Safety Net's web page at: To do your own home safety inspection, visit this site to order your copy of "Childproofing Done Properly."

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