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Keeping children safe from lead always foremost at public health

“There is no known safe level of lead,” said Dr. Shadi Barfjani, quoting important information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Barfjani, as the Plumas County Public Health Agency’s Health Programs Division chief, is like many others in the department, she’s concerned about children unknowingly coming into contact with lead.

And the health program and its staff aren’t just concerned, the agency offers lead testing in its health clinic.

Those parents or others concerned with the possibility of lead levels or lead poisoning can contact the health clinic at 283-6330 and make an appointment for testing.

Lead poisoning has been a significant public health problem for centuries, Barfjani offered. In children, it is defined as a blood lead level equal to or great than 10 µg/dL, it is also associated with adverse behavioral and developmental outcomes.

However, a level less than 10 µg/dL is considered unsafe, Barfjani explained.

Human exposure to lead occurs primarily through diet, air, drinking water and ingestion of paint chips. According to the CDC, millions of children are still exposed to lead in their homes.

Lead-based paint was banned in the United States in 1978, but homes built before 1978 could still have it. Often old paint is covered over and not removed before painting. If a child ingests paint from a chip containing the old lead-based paint, it can lead to lead poisoning, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

At home, lead-based paint isn’t the only problem. According to Barfjani, children might be exposed to pigments and glazes used in pottery.

For centuries, lead plumbing has helped in the contamination of drinking water and contributed to elevated blood lead concentrations in children. One main example of this occurred in Flint, Michigan, when it was finally recognized in 2014 that high levels of lead was in the city’s water source, the Flint River.

And lead pipes can leach out into drinking water.

Environmental lead exposure occurs from automobile exhaust in areas of the world where leaded gasoline is still used. In the United States, leaded gasoline was totally banned in 1990 in the Clear Air Act. The measures took effect in 1995.

Lead exposure can affect nearly every system in the body and is associated with numerous behavioral and learning problems including anemia, reduced IQ, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, juvenile delinquency, and criminal behavior, Barfjani said.

Research indicates that even low levels of lead in a child’s blood can affect IQ, the ability to pay attention, and academic achievement, she added.

“The effects of lead exposure cannot be corrected,” Barfjani stated.

Because lead exposure often occurs with no obvious symptoms, it frequently goes  unrecognized.

The CDC has a Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program that helps prevent childhood lead exposure through surveillance, Barfjani said. The program provides national guidance and recommendations, collaborations at multiple agencies and funding for local lead poisoning prevention programs.

As the Plumas County Health Agency observed Lead Poisoning Prevention Month through October, Barfjani reminded people that it is always on the alert to help provide people with information and education.

There is also the home visiting nurses program besides the health clinic opportunities, Barfjani said.

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