Preventing Lead Poisoning Outdoors

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Preventing Lead Poisoning Outdoors

Learn how to protect your child from lead poisoning while outdoors

Q: I thought lead was only a danger inside homes with peeling paint, but now I hear kids can pick up the dust outside, too. How do I protect my child from lead poisoning when we’re out in the yard?

A: You know the main sources of lead: old peeling paint and antique or imported toys. But what many parents don’t realize is that there can be lead lurking outside in the yards of houses built prior to 1978, when lead paint was taken off the market. Why? Lead dust from original layers of paint may have leached into the soil years ago, and because lead is not biodegradable, it can stay in the environment indefinitely. If you live in or near one of these older homes or buildings, create a barrier between your child and the ground by planting grass or laying mulch or wood chips over bare soil near your home’s perimeter. Remove your shoes when you go inside, especially if you’ve been walking on bare soil. Finally, wet-mop your floors once a week (or more if there’s a lot of foot traffic). Then try to relax. Your pediatrician will do a routine lead test at your child’s 1-year checkup (ask about it if she doesn’t) and any other time if you’re concerned.

Lara Zibners, M.D. This pediatrician mom penned the hilarious and helpful If Your Kid Eats This Book, Everything Will Still Be Okay. Write to her at