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  QUESTION: When should a baby first be blood lead tested & how often after that? 20 Jul 2004, New Jersey USA

I am the mother of 2 year old and 6 month old. We moved into our house 7 months ago from a small 1 bedroom brownstone in Manhattan. Our 2 year old blood was tested for lead 2x. Once when she was 1 (when we lived in Manhattan and it was -.3) She was recently tested and was at .19. She has more freedom in the new house and is able to move around and get into more things. The board of health recommended that we get new windows and replace the dirt around the house. Which we did.

What can I do to help reduce the levels of lead that are already in her system? How often should I insist she be tested? What about the 6 month old who is ready to start crawling? Should she be tested early? Should I insist on getting our water checked? The house we bought was built in 1940.

Thank you for your help.
Pat Kremen

ANSWER: 22 Aug 2004

ANSWER: 21 Jul 2004

Dear Patricia,

it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job keeping your children's blood lead levels so low. Having replaced windows and dirt will make things better for the youngest baby. We recommend that the baby's first blood lead test be done a couple of weeks after the baby starts to crawl and the frequency of further tests is totally dependent on the first result but a good rule of thumb is that if you realize an exposure to lead or a potential exposure to lead has occurred (eg the baby eats a flake of paint or dirt in someone's yard), then request a re-test. Knowing that the usual peak in childhood blood lead level occurs sometime between 18 and 24 months should also inspire you to organise a blood lead test at around 18 months. I understand that the usual scenario in the USA is annual testing to the age of 6 years unless results are very low or high in which case the frequency changes accordingly.

Ensuring that the children ingest adequate amounts of iron, calcium, zinc, Vitamin C, protein and Omega 3 fatty acids is a good way to deal with lead in the body and also helps reduce the rate of absorption of lead in the future. See the booklet "Fight Lead Poisoning with a Healthy Diet"

Lots of wet-cleaning and housekeeping methods which reduce dust and dirt on surfaces the baby is in contact with are also important. See "Lead Aware Housekeeping" and if lead in water is likely to be an issue in your particular area (sorry I don't know the specifics) then a water lead test can't hurt.

All the best.
Elizabeth O'Brien

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