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Protecting your Child from Lead and Other Household Poisoning

6/2/2017

The word poison suggests a bubbling vial marked with skull and crossbones. However, poisonings can result from misuse of common household products or even from our home by exposure to lead. Lead can be found in the environment such as in the soil and water and from sources inside our homes.  Even small amounts of lead can be dangerous for children. Poisoning with lead and with household products can happen all at once or gradually over time. TRICARE covers children’s blood lead testing at well-child care visits when medically necessaryTo be medically necessary means it is appropriate, reasonable, and adequate for your condition.. Learn how to protect your family against accidental poisoning.

Lead Poisoning

Blood lead poisoning occurs when a person or child eats, drinks or inhales lead or a lead-contaminated item. Lead is commonly found in homes built in 1978 or earlier in the form of paint, pipes or plumbing fixtures. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that over 24 million homes in the U.S. contain lead-based paint or lead-contaminated dust.

As reported nationally about water contamination in Flint, Michigan, lead poisoning is a serious health threat to children. Lead exposure can damage the developing brain and nervous system, slow growth and development, lead to learning and behavioral problems and cause hearing and speech problems. Symptoms of lead poisoning don’t appear until after dangerous amounts of lead have built up in the person.

The EPA notes that there are steps you can take to protect your family from lead exposure. Those steps include understanding your home’s lead risks, maintaining your home’s condition and testing your home's drinking water.

At well-child care visits, TRICARE covers lead level screening for children from age six months to six years who are at high risk. A child’s risk level is based on results of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s lead poisoning form used during well-child visits. If you are concerned about lead exposure and your child, talk to your child’s primary care provider.

Other Preventable Household Poisoning

In 2015, America’s 55 poison centers received 2.2 million calls for help. Nearly 50 percent of all poison exposures involve children younger than six years old. That means half of all poisonings are due to young children eating or inhaling a product such as medicine or household cleaning products. These poisonings are largely preventable. Knowing which products are dangerous can prevent child poisoning.

First, find the common household poisons you keep in your home. These include:

  • Laundry and cleaning supplies, especially in brightly-colored packets
  • Medicines and vitamins
  • Pesticides
  • Hand sanitizers
  • Small button batteries

Next, create safe storage habits. Keep items in their original, labeled containers and kept out of sight, out of reach or locked up. “Families should also be aware of dangerous substances and medications in homes where children are cared for such as a grandparents’ or a baby sitters house” according to Terry Adirim, M.D., a pediatric emergency physician who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense in Health Affairs.

Arm yourself against poisoning by learning more about toxic household products. Be sure to keep the national phone number for Poison Help, 1-800-222-1222, posted in your home and on your cell phone. It is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. 

Last Updated 6/30/2017