October is Lead Poisoning Prevention Month, and the Mississippi State Department of Health (MSDH) encourages all Mississippians to take action to protect themselves and their loved ones from lead poisoning.
Through the years of 2004 to 2009, approximately 197,917 children were screened for lead poisoning. Of these children 1,640 tested positive. The children lived in 77 counties, with sixteen of these Mississippi counties identified as being high-risk areas for lead poisoning: Adams, Coahoma, Forrest, Harrison, Hinds, Holmes, Humphreys, Jones, Lauderdale, Leflore, Pike, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Warren, Washington and Yazoo.
Anyone can suffer from lead poisoning, but children are especially at risk since their bodies absorb lead more easily than those of adults. Children with lead poisoning represent 0.64% of all children under six who received a blood lead test. Even the unborn are at risk because pregnant mothers can pass lead to their growing babies.
Lead poisoning can result from:
- Swallowing chipped paint or lead-contaminated dust or soil
- Breathing in lead particles created by sanding or scraping old paint
- Swallowing or chewing products that contain lead, like fishing weights, pewter and jewelry
- Drinking water from pipes or pumps made with lead, or breathing in lead particles while welding or soldering
- Exposure to lead-based house paint found in some older homes
Signs of lead poisoning include nausea, constipation, stomach pain, vomiting and loss of appetite, along with sleep disturbances, headaches and fatigue.
Over time, even small amounts of lead can cause serious and permanent health problems such as brain and nervous system damage, lower IQ and learning disabilities, behavior problems, and hearing damage. Eventually, high levels of lead in the body can lead to convulsions, comas and death.
Contact the MSDH Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program at (601) 576-7447 for information about lead hazards in the home. For an interactive guide to lead and other environmental hazards in the home, visit our Healthy Homes website at www.HealthyMS.com/lead.
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