National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Being Observed

During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (Oct. 23-29), the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) encourages residents to learn the dangers of lead exposure and how to protect themselves and their families from it. Both DHEC’s Public Health division and Environmental Affairs division perform important work to help make sure South Carolinians are at minimal risk of experiencing health issues due to lead exposure.
While lead is a naturally occurring element, exposure to it can cause serious harm to people, especially children. Items such as leaded gasoline and household paint containing lead are no longer sold in the United States, but lead can still be found in everyday environments; it’s most frequently found in plumbing and paint in older homes as well as in contaminated dust and soil.
Lead can enter the body through breathing in lead dust, swallowing lead dust that settles on food or food preparation surfaces, drinking water contaminated with lead, or ingesting paint chips, dust, or soil that contains lead.
“Lead poisoning is preventable,” said Dr. Brannon Traxler, DHEC Public Health Director. “The key is to educate parents and caregivers about preventing children from contact with lead and educating adults about possible lead exposure routes at home or at work. Because the symptoms of lead poisoning often initially go unnoticed, it’s important that we all focus on prevention in the first place.”
Simple blood tests that check for lead levels are often performed by pediatricians during children’s wellness visits, usually the 12- or 24-month visits. Parents or guardians should talk to their doctor if they have questions or concerns about their child and lead exposure. Blood tests also are required in occupational settings where there is a potential to be exposed to lead.
Lead test results are reported to DHEC. If the blood test detects elevated lead levels, a physician will provide guidance to their patient. Additionally, a DHEC nurse will contact the patient (or parent or guardian if the patient is a child) to learn more about how the person might have been exposed to lead. The nurse may recommend that DHEC staff perform an environmental lead assessment at the home to identify the potential sources of lead so that the appropriate steps can be taken to mitigate it.
Because drinking water is one potential source of lead exposure, DHEC’s Bureau of Water ensures all public water systems in the state adhere to laws and regulations that keep drinking water safe from dangerous lead levels. However, lead is rarely in drinking water when it leaves a treatment plant ? it more commonly seeps into drinking water from old plumbing that carries water from the public water source into an individual home.
Additionally, DHEC’s Bureau of Water oversees the state’s Lead Testing in Schools and Child Care Centers Program, which is funded through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act. Through this important effort, DHEC can test the water coming out of a school’s or child care center’s drinking and cooking water faucets. The services associated with collecting the samples and the lab analyses are provided at no cost. If lead is detected in a facility’s water sample, DHEC will provide the facility with information and resources about short-term and permanent control measures for addressing lead issues.

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