Fight lead poisoning in young children with proper diets

Lead poisoning in young children, the most susceptible segment of the population, is down but not out. Lead is no longer used in products like paint, gasoline, and plumbing. However, in older cities like Philadelphia, remnants of widespread applications are everywhere. Exposure and the consequent hazards are less through contact with the lead-bearing items or materials in their original forms, but in the residual dust that’s virtually impossible to eliminate or prevent from being generated, even with state-of-the-art remediation technologies.

Use of lead paint was banned in this country in 1978. Still, it’s likely to be present in structures built before that year. That paint may be sealed or even stripped away, but the lead can be exposed by flaking if a building is poorly maintained or a surface is loosened by water leakage or scraping. And lead dust can be released by sliding windows up and down in their tracks or opening and closing doors in their jambs if lead paint was ever used on these elements. Likewise, leaded gasoline was banned in 1995. However, lead in the exhaust has settled into the ground and can be picked up simply by walking or playing on it.

Relatively simple good housekeeping can go a long way in preventing young children from being exposed to lead dust from these sources. Parents who fail to take the proper precautions for removing any old paint flakes as well as routinely damp wiping and mopping windowsills, floors, and other horizontal surfaces are being irresponsible and asking for trouble.

But there’s more they can and should do. Diet is a key factor. Foods rich in iron, calcium, and vitamin C are known to lower the body’s ability to assimilate lead. Those high in fat have the opposite effect and boost the propensity for lead absorption.

Suitable iron-rich foods include:

Suitable calcium-rich foods include:

Suitable vitamin C-rich foods include:
Foods and ingredients to avoid altogether or to reserve for special occasions include:
Experts also recommend that young children eat four to six small portions a day rather than be fed fewer large helpings because hunger between meals tends to increase lead absorption.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has a booklet giving more tips, including meal and snack menus, to build children’s resistance to lead poisoning through proper diet. It’s entitled “Lead and a healthy Diet.” Copies are on-line at:

You can also obtain a copy by contacting EPA, Office of Pollution Prevention & Toxics, 1200 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Mail Code 7401-M, Washington, DC 20460, 202-564-3810.

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