For years, health experts and the Center for Disease Control have warned about the risks associated with lead poisoning in kids, which can include damage to the brain and nervous system.
Now, new research suggests that even a small amount of lead in the blood can contribute to behavior problems in kids.
In older homes, the danger could be in the water or on the ceiling and walls. Despite awareness efforts and community outreach, in this case, by a nonprofit group in Trenton, New Jersey, nationwide, lead remains a concern.
"That's the really tragic thing about lead is that once a child is lead poisoned, then they have some permanent deficits," explained Janet Currie, Ph.D., the director for the Center for Health and Well Being at Princeton University.
Currie studied the blood lead levels of 120,000 children in Rhode Island, a state with high rates of lead testing for young children.
Using school records, the researchers wanted to see if a child's blood lead level in the preschool years predicted whether they later had problems in school. They found a relationship between even low levels of lead and future academic progress.
"They're more likely to have disciplinary problems in school," Currie said to Ivanhoe. "It was very striking that for every microgram of lead additional, you would see a step up in the level of problems."
Currie said if your home was built before 1978, it likely has lead-based paint. Any peeling paint should be removed by a contractor and covered with fresh paint.
Commercially available filters can remove lead particles from tap water. If you live in an older home, don't plant your vegetables against the house. There might be lead in the soil. Instead, build a raised bed, with fresh soil.
Currie said the research findings affirm that any level of lead in a child's blood is reason for concern. She also says there needs to be a more effective mechanism in place for blood lead screening. Currie said most states don't enforce mandatory screening for all kids.