Lead Poisoning A Concern

It's one of the most devastating illnesses facing children today, and some coast areas are seeing more and more cases. One local environmental agency said lead poisoning is more of a threat to overall quality of life than drugs and racism.

Lead is poisonous because it interferes with some of the body's basic functions. The human body can't tell the difference between lead and calcium. Like calcium, lead remains in the bloodstream and is absorbed into the bones where it can collect for a lifetime. Some local environmentalists say it's important to know that even low exposure to lead can permanently affect children.

"It can cause problems for children, attention deficit, hyperactivity, loss of IQ, behavioral problems, and if you get a big dose of it, there are even more serious consequences, like mental retardation," lead poisoning expert Dr. Janet Phoenix said.

Dr. Phoenix explained what would happen if lead poisoning goes unchecked to a group of local leaders, Saturday in Biloxi. She said it is a totally preventable disease, and the community needs to take it more seriously.

"I have no reason to believe that children in Mississippi are not at high risk for lead poisoning, so it is a problem for people living in this state," Phoenix said.

These days lead paint is not used, but the remnants of the paint can still be found on walls in South Mississippi.

"There's still a lot of older homes where there's old lead based paint on the walls, it may not be in the top layer but it's there," Phoenix said.

If you live in a house built before 1978, doctor Phoenix said you're better off assuming that lead is present and to take some preventative steps to protect your children.

The EPA recommends:

-keeping your house clean because ordinary dust may contain lead, not removing lead paint yourself

-don't bring lead dust into your home

-shower and change clothes if you work with lead

-get lead out of your water by checking your plumbing.

"Lead, I call it the silent killer and destroyer of children's lives," Executive director for the Center of Environmental and Economic Justice James Black said.

Black said the biggest problem is lack of education, and he hopes that after a forum like the one this weekend will encourage parents to consider the possibility that lead effects their children.

Experts say lead is most dangerous to children 6-years-old and under, and that it's important every parent know where lead can be found and how to control it.