Reducing childhood lead poisoning

During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Oct. 24 through 31, the Westchester County Department of Health drew attention to this preventable problem and encouraged parents and caregivers to learn how to eliminate hazards at home that can cause lead poisoning in children.

“Lead poisoning is a serious illness that affects several hundred new children each year in Westchester and can cause a wide variety of severe health problems,” said Dr. Cheryl Archbald, acting commissioner of health. “Lead Poisoning Prevention Week serves as an annual reminder that in many cases, lead poisoning can be avoided through increased awareness and by eradicating potential lead hazards in the home.’’

Due to the large number of older homes in the county and prevalence of lead poisoned children, Westchester County was one of 15 counties identified by the state as a high-risk county for potential lead exposure. As a result, Westchester receives additional grant funding from the New York State Department of Health to conduct primary prevention.

Owners of older homes built before 1978 that are found to have lead paint hazards may be eligible for subsidies to cover the cost of home lead remediation through a grant program available with the Westchester County Department of Planning.

Homeowners and building managers who want to learn how to safely renovate older homes that may contain lead paint should register to attend the next free Lead Safe Work Practice Course on Nov. 19. The course will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Fire Training Academy in Valhalla. To attend, you must first register by calling 231-2538.

Funded by a grant from the New York State Department of Health, the Westchester County Department of Health’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (LPPP) works to reduce the incidence of lead poisoning in Westchester’s children.

At low blood lead levels, lead can adversely affect a child’s ability to learn. At high levels, lead is an acute poison that can cause developmental delays, seizures and in severe cases, death.

Lead poisoning can be easily detected by a simple blood test. All children between the ages of six months and six years should be assessed annually by their medical provider and all children at ages one and two years should receive a blood lead test. Pregnant women should also be assessed for lead exposure by their prenatal health care provider because lead exposure can impact an unborn baby.

The Health Department wants parents and caregivers to be aware that lead poisoning is preventable. Several ways to minimize a child’s exposure to lead:

•Clean up peeling paint and paint chips frequently, using wet methods (mop, sponge, or cloth) and an all purpose degreasing cleaner.

•Use a wet mop and a damp dusting cloth to avoid adding lead dust to the air that children will breathe.

•Wash children’s hands frequently, particularly before meals and snacks and after playing outdoors.

•Supervise small children closely to ensure they only put food in their mouths, not paint chips, play jewelry or toys that could contain lead.

•Feed children a well balanced diet that is high in calcium and iron, which can minimize their exposure to lead. Foods such as cheese, yogurt, beans and dark leafy green vegetables are good sources of calcium and iron.

•Don’t allow children to use, wear, eat or play with imported jewelry, toys, candy or make-up, which can contain lead or lead paint.

•Avoid serving food in pottery if you are unsure about whether there could be lead in the glaze.

Lead in drinking water is rarely a significant source of lead poisoning. However, if you are unsure about the level of lead in your drinking water, use only water from the cold water tap for cooking and drinking or making a baby’s formula. Hot water picks up more lead from pipes and solder. In addition, if more than six hours have gone by since a tap was last turned on, run the water until it becomes noticeably cooler to the touch before using it for cooking or drinking.

For more information about lead poisoning prevention, call the Westchester County Department of Health at (914) 813-5000 or go to

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