By Melissa DeRoche

Emergency Preparedness Coordinator & Public Information Officer for the Central Michigan District Health Department

OSCEOLA COUNTY — The dangers of lead and lead poisoning have been in the headlines of local and national news sources for the last several months. The Flint water crisis has reminded residents of Michigan and public health professionals that lead continues to be a common, but preventable, public health problem.

Lead is a toxic metal that can be found in a variety of common household products like pipes, vinyl blinds, dishware, paint and more. When lead is ingested, it interferes with the development and functioning of internal organs including the brain, kidneys, nerves and blood cells. Lead poses the biggest health threat to children under the age of 6 and pregnant women. Young children are at greatest risk of ingesting lead because they commonly put their hands and objects in their mouth.

Lead can be found inside and outside your home. The most common sources of lead exposure are lead-based paint, lead-contaminated dust, soil and drinking water.

Parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead in many ways. Here are some simple things you can do to help protect your family:

Get your Child Tested. Ask your child’s doctor about a lead test. Children covered by Medicaid insurance are required to be tested for lead at the ages of 1 and 2. Lead poisoning often shows no physical signs or symptoms; the only way to detect lead poisoning is through a blood test. If you suspect your child might be exposed to lead, talk to your doctor or local health department about lead testing.

Practice Prevention. Lead poisoning is preventable with proper nutrition, housekeeping and hygiene. A diet high in iron, calcium and Vitamin C helps minimize lead absorption in children. Keep floors, surfaces and toys in your home clean. Always wash your child’s hands before eating and sleeping.

Get your Home Tested. If you live in a home built before 1978, you may want to consider getting a lead inspection. Home test kits to detect lead paint are available at most large hardware stores. Lead pipes placed in your home prior to the 1980s have the potential to contaminate your water. To test the water in your home for lead, contact your local health department.

Get the Facts. For more information, contact the MDHHS Michigan Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (888) 322-4453 or visit michigan.gov/lead. For additional resources visit, michigan.gov/deq/.