Building Good Habits and Safe Surroundings (page 2)
A child does not have to eat paint chips to get lead poisoning. It is more common for a child to swallow lead dust or soil that contains lead from paint. How does this happen? First, dust or soil settles on the hands or toys of children as they play. Then, as children commonly do, they put their hands and their toys in their mouths, and they swallow the dust or soil.
Good habits and a clean home will go a long way toward reducing the risk of exposure to lead. Good food can lessen the effects of exposure. As a parent, you have a responsibility to help your children develop good habits. You also have a responsibility to do what you can to provide your children with good nutrition and safe surroundings. Here are guidelines you can follow every day:
- Make sure your children eat at least three meals a day. Less lead is absorbed when children have food in their systems.
- Give your children foods high in iron and calcium, such as milk, cheese, fish, peanut butter, and raisins. When a child does not have enough iron or calcium in his or her body, the body mistakes lead for these nutrients. A diet lacking protein, vitamin C, and zinc may also cause increased blood-lead levels.
- Avoid giving your children fried and fatty foods. These foods allow the body to absorb lead faster. Cut down on fat by baking, broiling, or steaming food.
- Don't store food or liquid in lead crystal glassware or imported or old pottery.
- Teach children to wash their hands before they eat or sleep.
- Make sure your children do not have access to peeling paint and do not chew on painted surfaces such as cribs, playpens, or window ledges.
- Keep your home clean. At least once a week, wash areas such as hard surface floors, baseboards, and window sills, especially if your home was built before 1978. Use a solution of water and an all-purpose cleaner or a cleaner made specifically for lead.
- Wash children's toys, bottles, and pacifiers often, and always wash them after they fall on the floor. Stuffed toys in particular accumulate dust and should be washed often.
- Encourage your children to play in grassy areas instead of dirt, which sticks to fingers and toys. Also, do not let them eat dirt.
- Teach your children about the dangers of lead and their role in keeping themselves safe. Use stories, role-playing, and songs to help your children recognize sources of lead and learn prevention behaviors. Explain how good nutrition prevents lead poisoning, and help them choose healthy foods.
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