This story is very disturbing. According to an article on WRAL.com, county inspectors found hazardous levels of lead paint inside Ridoutt’s Daycare Center. The facility closed its doors after receiving the final environmental lead investigation report on July 5. The report (available here: Wake County Lead Investigation Report) reported that hazardous levels of paint were found inside the infant area and the kitchen.
Ridoutt’s Daycare Center has been in business for more than 60 years. The lead investigation began after a routine sanitation inspection found flaking paint in the kitchen. According to the WRAL.com article:
Christy Harris, who worked at Ridoutt’s for nine years before being laid off in February, said she noticed signs of possible lead paint exposure during her employment.
“We were all having headaches, stomachaches. The kids were always sick,” Harris said.
Harris became pregnant while working at Ridoutt’s, and her daughter, now 5 years old, attended the daycare. Now, Harris and many other daycare parents will be having their children tested for possible lead exposure. In fact, the Riddouts themselves have also had their children tested. According to the article:
Harris said many parents pulled their children out of the day care center before the county confirmed their suspicions that lead paint was present there.
“They would always tell me, ‘It’s the facility. We feel like something’s not right here. We feel like we need to take out child out,'” Harris said.
The Dangers Of Lead Exposure
According to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, lead exposure is one of the most common preventable poisonings in children. Children are especially vulnerable because their rapidly developing nervous systems are particularly sensitive to the effects of lead.
Exposure to lead can have a wide range of effects on a child’s development and behavior. Even when exposed to small amounts of lead levels, children may appear inattentive, hyperactive and irritable. Children with greater lead levels may also have problems with learning and reading, delayed growth and hearing loss. At high levels, lead can cause permanent brain damage and even death. [AACAP]
According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), early symptoms of lead poisoning in children are often confused with other illnesses. These can include persistent tiredness, irritability, loss of appetite, stomach discomfort, reduced attention span, insomnia, and constipation. Failure to treat children in the early stages can cause long-term or permanent health damage.
In addition, lead poisoning can also affect adults:
In adults, [lead poisoning] can cause irritability, poor muscle coordination, and nerve damage to the sense organs and nerves controlling the body. Lead poisoning may also cause problems with reproduction (such as a decreased sperm count). It may also increase blood pressure. [CPSC]
It is generally and widely known that older homes often have lead-based paint. About two-thirds of the homes built before 1940 and one-half of the homes built from 1940 to 1960 contain heavily-leaded paint. Homes built between 1960 and 1980 may also have lead. Rules for lead in paint were changed in 1978, so most homes built in the 1980s until the present are generally considered safe.
How Are Children Exposed to Lead?
Although it might seem difficult to get exposure to lead from paint, it is actually quite easy for contamination to occur. According to the CPSC:
Eating paint chips is one way young children are exposed to lead. It is not the most common way that consumers, in general, are exposed to lead. Ingesting and inhaling lead dust that is created as lead-based paint “chalks,” chips, or peels from deteriorated surfaces can expose consumers to lead. Walking on small paint chips found on the floor, or opening and closing a painted frame window, can also create lead dust. Other sources of lead include deposits that may be present in homes after years of use of leaded gasoline and from industrial sources like smelting. Consumers can also generate lead dust by sanding lead-based paint or by scraping or heating lead-based paint.
Lead dust can settle on floors, walls, and furniture. Under these conditions, children can ingest lead dust from hand-to-mouth con- tact or in food. Settled lead dust can re-enter the air through cleaning, such as sweeping or vacuuming, or by movement of people throughout the house.
What to Do If Your Child Was Exposed to Lead
If your child attended Ridoutt’s Daycare Center (600 Saint Marys Street in Garner), it is a good idea to have your child tested for lead poisoning. Contact your health care provider or a Wake County public health clinic (Main clinic information number: 919-212-7000). Mention that your child may have been exposed to lead at the daycare.
Full WRAL.com article: Lead paint contamination closes Garner day care
American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry: Lead exposure in children affects brain and behavior
U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: What you should know about lead based pain in your home–safety alert