Medical Moment: Lead Exposure in Children

Medical Moment: Lead Exposure in Children

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Dr. Kent Gaylord answers this week’s question: Who is at risk for lead exposure?

Dr. Kent Gaylord

Dr. Kent Gaylord


Since lead was removed from gasoline and paint and reduced in factory emissions in the United States, symptomatic lead poisoning in children is now rare. As the recent events in Flint Michigan demonstrate though, lead poisoning in children is an important topic to discuss.

Who is at risk for lead exposure? Children are considered at risk if any of the following are true:

  • Child lives in or frequently visits a home built before 1950, or a recently renovated home built before 1978.
  • Child has a sibling or frequent playmate with elevated blood levels.
  • Child’s parent or primary caregiver works with lead.  Examples include battery recycling, lead mining, auto repair, plumbing, glass manufacture or hobbies that include lead (soldering)
  • Child is a recent immigrant, refugee, or foreign adoptee.
  • Child has a household member who uses traditional, folk, or ethnic remedies.

How much lead is safe? There is no safe level of lead exposure in children, with lasting decreases in cognition documented in blood levels as low as 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood.

What are signs of lead poisoning? Most children with elevated blood levels are asymptomatic. As the lead levels rise, children may complain of non-specific symptoms such as headaches, abdominal pain, loss of appetite or constipation.

Who should be tested?  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children be tested at least once when they are two years of age, or ideally twice, at one and two years or age, unless lead exposure can be confidently excluded.

Can lead testing be done in Telluride?  The Telluride Medical Center has recently purchased a point of care testing machine for hemoglobin and lead.  This point of care testing procedure consists of 1 simple finger prick, 2 drops of blood, and results take about 3 minutes to obtain.

***Telluride Medical Center Quickfacts 2016 -For a brief update on the current state of the Telluride Medical Center, growth figures for 2015, plans for a new facility in Mountain Village, as well as the funding strategy for the new facility, click here.

Editor’s note: The Telluride Medical Center is the only 24-hour emergency facility within 65 miles. As a mountain town in a challenging, remote environment, a thriving medical center is vital to our community’s health.

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