Preventing Lead Exposure In Your Toddler

Photo credit:  Pixabay

Photo credit: Pixabay

Now that your baby has become a toddler, you’ll want to do all you can to keep her healthy, happy and developing physically, mentally and emotionally!

Did you know that almost 2% of kids ages 1 to 5 have high levels of lead in their blood?

The main sources of lead exposure for kids include airborne lead, and leaded chips and dust, which mostly come from lead paint that has deteriorated.

Toddlers are more at risk for increased levels of lead in their bodies because they tend to put things in their mouths, which may have lead in or on them.

Lead exposure can be dangerous because it can affect the brain, the blood and the kidneys, and even if there is just a little bit of exposure to lead, it can result in decreased IQ and it can also have negative effects on motor, behavioral and physical abilities. It can also decrease growth.

Lead based paint (found in homes built before 1978), lead piping, contaminated water, and some canned foods (from other countries) can all be sources of lead exposure. If you or your partner works with sources of lead, you might even carry dust and debris on your clothing home and this can also increase the risk for lead exposure for your child. If your toddler has a brother, sister, or playmate has high levels of lead in their blood, your toddler is also at greater risk themselves for exposure to lead.

If you are enrolled in Medicaid services, or if you are familiar with your local health department, you may already know that it is recommended that some toddlers get screened for lead exposure. This screening, when indicated, should be done when your toddler is between 9 to 12 months old, and then again when she is about 24 months old. If you are concerned that your child may be at risk for lead exposure, ask your doctor if lead screening is indicated for her.

Your toddler may also be at risk for increased exposure to lead if she isn’t eating a healthy diet and getting the right nutrients, or if she has iron deficiency anemia. Iron can be found in foods like beef, pork, chicken, turkey (especially dark meat), fish, leafy greens like broccoli, and legumes like green peas.

Vitamin C can help clear lead out of the body. Some great sources of vitamin C are papaya, oranges, broccoli, kale, and strawberries.

Calcium might reduce the amount of lead that gets absorbed in the body, and your child can get lots of calcium from seeds, canned salmon, sardines, beans (white, red, pinto), lentils, almonds, some leafy greens (collard, spinach, kale), broccoli, amaranth, dried figs, oranges, and yogurt, cheese and milk (if your family and child eat dairy).

The most important things to do for lowering the risk of lead exposure are to:

  1. Eliminate sources of lead - make sure your toddler isn’t exposed to sources of lead like lead based paints

  2. Ensure your toddler is eating a well balanced diet - include food sources of iron, vitamin C and calcium

  3. Prevent iron deficiency anemia - see your healthcare provider to make sure your child isn’t iron deficient, and that she’s screened for lead exposure if needed

Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, Lead Prevention

Brown JE. Nutrition Through the Life Cycle, Fifth Edition. United States: Cengage Learning; 2014.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead. Last updated October 26, 2015. Accessed November 17, 2015.

Mayo Clinic. Lead poisoning. Published June 10, 2014. Accessed November 17, 2015.  

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Lead Poisoning. Available from: . Accessed November 17, 2015. 

Gropper SS, Smith JL. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism, 6th Edition. United States: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2005.