While children today are exposed to less lead than at any time in decades, thanks to laws reducing or removing lead from gasoline, paint and toys, it remains a toxic contaminant that poses severe risks even at the lowest levels of exposure. Permanent brain damage and learning deficiencies can result form exposure, which is why season spikes in blood lead levels of children have been a concern.
Thanks to a recent study, the cause may now be known: Dust.
A nine-year study published last month in Environmental Science &Technology of more than 367,000 children in Detroit correlated lead dust contamination with childhood exposure. Dust is worst in the height of summer, when heat bakes the ground, rain often fails to tamp it down, and children spend the most time outdoors. Then, lead deposited years ago is kicked up, leading to greater exposure, and blood lead levels as much as 10% higher in July, August and September in some U.S. cities.
The authors of the study recommended government do more to address lead soil contamination.
Parents can do little to control this exposure, but the Environmental Protection Agency does recommend these commonsense steps to avoid tracking lead into the house:
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