Lead is a toxic metal that is poisonous to humans. Lead poisoning is a serious condition that can be fatal, especially when exposure happens gradually over time and the substance builds up in the body. Despite its toxicity, lead has been used in a number of household products over the years, including paints, toys, and various art supplies.
Unfortunately, children are often most susceptible to lead poisoning because of their developing brains and bodies. It’s also more dangerous for younger children because they tend to put objects in their mouths more than older children and adults. It’s possible to treat lead poisoning, but any of the damage caused by exposure cannot be reversed.
Many children exposed to lead paint now have severe mental and physical impairment. And though lead paint is no longer legal in the United States, many people living in old homes, especially in Baltimore, lack the money and resources to have lead paint removed from their homes.
In order to develop lead poisoning, lead must be ingested, either through eating or breathing. It’s odorless, so you can be breathing in lead dust without even realizing it. If you are considering home renovations and you suspect your home currently had lead paint, you should have the paint tested before moving forward with the project. It’s also important that you eliminate any peeling or chipping paint that could be lead-based, especially if you have young children in your home.
How Can You Tell If You or Your Child Has Lead Poisoning?
Lead poisoning can affect various parts of the body and more often than not, symptoms show up gradually. As toxicity levels rise, symptoms become more severe. Some of the symptoms of long-time lead exposure include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping
- Irritability and aggressive behavior
- Sleeping disorders
- Lack of appetite
- High blood pressure
- Kidney dysfunction
- Numbness or tingling in extremities
- Loss of developmental skills
- Memory loss
In many instances, children were not diagnosed with lead poisoning and exposure to lead was not discovered until the parent or school noticed there were developmental delays. Many children diagnosed with lead poisoning experienced low IQs, behavioral problems, low grades, hearing problems, physical growth delays, and short- and long-term learning impairments.
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How Can I Tell If My Child Has Been Exposed to Lead?
If you or your child has shown no symptoms of lead poisoning, but you still are concerned exposure is occurring, you should have the item or items you suspect to be lead-containing tested. Some of the most common sources of lead include:
- House paint manufactured and/or sold before 1978
- Toys and household items painted before 1976
- Toys made and painted outside the United States at any time, including modern-day
- Bullets, curtain weights, and fishing sinkers made of lead
- Pipes and sink faucets, which can contaminate drinking water
- Soil polluted by lead-containing house paint or gasoline
- Art supplies
- Jewelry, pottery, and lead figures
- Makeup products, especially eyeliner
- Some ethnic medications
Lead Poisoning in Baltimore
Lead poisoning reached epidemic proportions in Baltimore and is still a problem in lower-income communities. The number of reported cases of lead poisoning in the city has dropped 86 percent since 2002, according to the Baltimore Sun.
Despite the declining numbers, there are still problems and many criticize Maryland’s system for protecting children from lead poisoning as being inadequately enforced. The state passed and strengthened laws regarding the need for landlords to cover or removed peeling, flaking, or chipping lead paint. There is a system in place designed to track rental homes built before lead paint was outlawed, and those homes must pass an inspection.
Additional progress for eliminating lead poisoning in Baltimore has been hindered by the fact the state program is mostly self-enforced. Landlords are required to have their property inspected, but there is no official system in place to have those inspections checked. In some cases, inspections aren’t even scheduled until after a resident child has been diagnosed with lead exposure.
According to the report from the Baltimore Sun, more than 260 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning in 2014, and there was at least one case in every country. A whopping 128 occurred in Baltimore.
What Should You Do If You Think Your Child Has Been Affected By Lead Exposure?
If you suspect your child was exposed to lead you should first deal with the medical aspects of the situation. Take your child to see a doctor and to receive a blood test to determine if lead is present in his or her blood. A simple blood test can determine if there is a problem, so even if your child has exhibited no symptoms, it’s a good idea to conduct a blood test if you suspect or know there is lead paint of other lead-containing products in your home.
If the test shows your child’s level to be 10 micrograms per deciliter or higher, it means your child’s health is at risk and you’ll need to conduct follow-up testing. Information about what to do next concerning your child’s health should be provided by your doctor.
Regarding the legal issues related to lead exposure, there is a chance you’ll be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit, especially if your child has been harmed by his or her exposure. Personal injury lawsuits, and in worst-case scenarios, wrongful death lawsuits, can be filed when an injury or illness is caused by a defective product. If a toy that your child played with contained lead or your child was exposed to lead paint in a rental home, or a home you purchased and it can be proven that the presence of lead was known and not disclosed, you could have a right to take legal action.
The best thing you can do once your child is receiving appropriate medical attention for lead poisoning is to speak to an injury attorney who is familiar with the lead exposure epidemic in Baltimore and throughout the area. For more information or to schedule a consultation, contact Ashcraft & Gerel, LLP at (866) 709-0505.