September 28, 2023

It was recently shown that the amount of lead at the Children’s Playground of Burnham Park is high. The implication is that children become exposed to this metal known to have toxic or harmful effects not only to children but also to adults. Children swallow or inhale dust from the playground. They run and crawl as they play and can swallow contaminated soil particles.
Lead is directly absorbed and distributed in the body – to the blood, soft tissues, and bones where it can stay for 56 days to 25 years. Children absorb a bigger proportion of lead compared to adults.
Effects of lead poisoning
Lead poisoning can cause damage to the brain, leading to permanent learning disabilities and memory impairment. The kidneys and other organs can also be affected.
Poisoning may not lead to signs or symptoms or the child may become easily tired, complain of stomach pains or constipation, may feel irritable, or vomit at times.
How is the amount of lead in the body determined?
Blood tests may be done to measure the amount of lead in a person’s body. Diagnosis is made by measuring the blood lead level (BLL). Additional tests are done depending on the severity of lead poisoning. According to experts, no blood lead level is considered safe.
How is lead poisoning treated?
Treatment involves removal or avoidance of the source of lead. Management decisions are based on Chelation therapy with a medication given through injection or as pills may be done if the person will no longer be exposed to a lead source but the drug can lead to worsening of lead poisoning if the person is exposed to lead again. Chelation does not reverse the effects of lead on learning and intelligence.
Prevention of lead poisoning:
Primary prevention is removal of the sources of lead. Contaminated surfaces, soil, lead-soldered pipes, lead-painted surfaces should be cleansed or scraped off; regular hand washing of hands; frequent use of wet mop in homes and dusting can reduce a child’s exposure.
Water to be used for cooking should come from cold tap. Hot water is known to leach more lead from pipes.
Diet of children should include adequate iron, calcium, and vitamin C. Adequate iron and calcium stores decrease lead absorption and vitamin C increases kidney excretion of lead.
Avoid toys or costume jewelries that may have high lead content.
Wash hands and bodies of children with soap and water for at least 20 seconds after playing on artificial fields or contaminated playgrounds.
Avoid eating on artificial or playing fields.
Keep shoes worn on playing fields outside of the home.

Medical questions and concerns and suggested topics may be emailed to [email protected] or [email protected]. Answers will be provided in the column or will be emailed.