In the United States today, as many as 535,000 children may be affected by lead poisoning. While exposure to lead can be detrimental to the health of people of all ages, its most serious health implications are experienced by children six years old and younger and also pregnant women. Learning and behavioral problems are among the most common and damaging health effects of lead poisoning.

October 20-26 marks the annual observance of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, an event spearheaded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. During this week in October, Americans are reminded that lead poisoning continues to be the most significant environmental threat to the health of America’s children.

Bonnie Hinds, an environmental health specialist with University of Tennessee Extension, says most children who experience lead poisoning encounter the lead in their own homes, generally from exposure to aging lead-based paint. “In 1978, the U.S. government banned the use of lead in house paint, but any home built prior to that time may contain lead-based paint. As this paint ages, it can deteriorate into fine, talc-like dust. This dust, virtually invisible, if inhaled, can cause lead poisoning,” she said. “The paint on windows and doors is most vulnerable to the effects of weathering and friction and particularly problematic,” she said.

With careful attention to simple cleaning practices, however, even an older home can be rendered lead safe. Hinds said anyone seeking more information on lead poisoning and lead poisoning prevention can contact their local county extension office or the Tennessee Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at 865-974-8178.

UT Extension provides a gateway to the University of Tennessee as the outreach unit of the UT Institute of Agriculture. With an office in every Tennessee county, UT Extension delivers educational programs and research-based information to citizens throughout the state. In cooperation with Tennessee State University, UT Extension works with farmers, families, youth and communities to improve lives by addressing problems and issue at the local, state and national levels.

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Contact:

Bonnie Hinds, UT Extension Department of Family and Consumer Sciences, 865-974-8178,
bhinds@utk.edu

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