Should You Worry About Lead Exposure?

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Flint, MI water difficulties.  And, while investigation is ongoing, this isn’t a national problem, but you may still have questions about how lead hurts children.

In our 4-State area, we do have the occasional child with a high Lead level, but thankfully at this recording no major problem like Flint, MI. How does Lead affect the little brain? Remember the game, “Mousetrap”, a type of chain reaction?  Well, your Baby’s Brain has billions of “Mousetrap” actions going on as we speak! One theory suggests Lead blocks the normal Calcium brain channels.

One nerve gets excited releasing an electric impulse, which then opens some areas on the cell to let in calcium which then causes other chemicals to open new “holes” to go “fire up” the next cell, and start the process over again. Ever thought of your kid’s brain as a billion little “Mousetrap Games” going off all at once? Explains a lot…doesn’t it?

Now, the toddler brain has 2-3 times the number of adult brain cells.  So, in addition to everything else toddlers are doing (running, climbing, screaming, throwing fits and … other things) the brain cells are pruning, and thus destroying unneeded cells. Lead stops the calcium channels from working properly, and maybe this pruning sequence. In brain imaging studies of adults who had high Lead tests, specific brain regions were abnormal.  Mental functioning was affected for these adults. Maybe it’s kind of like when the ball gets stuck in the “Mousetrap Game” and can’t finish the cycle, or in this case the next thought. So, Lead is a “Silent Visitor” who is changing your child’s brain.

Is your baby at risk? Probably not, but you can check with your water carrier, and check your own house for lead pipes.  Some simple habits might be good to develop, as you may visit somewhere and won’t know if that house is safe, from lead. Use only water from the cold side for drinking and cooking. Let the cold water run for about 30 seconds before putting any in the drinking or cooking container; letting the cold water run will clear much of the lead, if any was present.

Never drink, cook or prepare beverages using water from the hot water faucet. Do not use hot tap water to make baby formula.  Avoid boiling water a long time when preparing beverages, especially infant formula.  Excessive boiling water may increase the amount of lead in tap water due to evaporation.  Avoid using lead based cookware made commonly outside of the U.S.  Lead can get into food during cooking from Lead cookware.

Some water filters will stop lead, but you need to read the specifics on your water filter, for sure.  Do not eat off of plates that have been painted with lead (usually not purchased in the U.S.)  Some candies and spices (usually not from the U.S.) are contaminated with lead.  In our area, the leading cause of lead poisoning for kids is exposure to old lead paint in houses, or in the soil that was tracked in on shoes, or someone working with lead solder, or jobs or hobbies with fishing lures, shot, paints, ammunition or other related chemicals. And if questions, ask your doctor and have your child tested for lead.  Give that kid a hug!

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