Scientists say lead is a “neurotoxin.” Literally, neurotoxin means “brain poison.” The effects of lead on a growing child can be severe and permanent. A child may consume lead in a number of ways, including exposure to lead-laced paint, paint chips, and paint dust. Other sources may include water, soil, candies, jewelry, toys, cookware, cosmetics and traditional home remedies. In Chicago alone, 1,000 children were diagnosed with lead poisoning last year and the State of Illinois has a higher percentage of lead poisoning cases than any other state in the Union. If you suspect that your child may have been exposed to lead, take the following steps immediately:
1. See a doctor
Frequently, lead poisoning is not discovered until a child is taken to the hospital for a wellness check. However, if you suspect lead poisoning in your child, you should see a doctor immediately. The symptoms of lead poisoning include:
- Abdominal pain and cramping;
- Aggressive behavior;
- Anemia (insufficient red blood cells);
- Trouble sleeping;
- Loss of previous developmental skills;
- Low appetite and energy;
- Reduced sensations.
Note: very high levels of lead may cause vomiting, staggering walk, muscle weakness, seizures and coma.
Treatments for lead poisoning are available, but the damage is often permanent. As a result, the sooner you get to a doctor, the better.
2. Contact your municipality
Most local municipalities have a municipal department that oversees lead inspection and removal. In Chicago, the Chicago Department of Public Health oversees lead-related issues. You can reach them at 312.747.9884 or by calling 311. The municipality will likely send an inspector to inspect the property for lead. Depending on the results of the inspection, the municipality may order remediation, during which you will likely be unable to inhabit the property.
3. Find alternative housing
It is very likely that, if your apartment is found to contain lead paint, the municipality will order immediate remediation. In the meantime, you should consider finding an alternative living situation. If remediation is not available or delayed, you should consider finding a new living arrangement permanently.
4. Talk to a lawyer
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your child’s injury, your family may be entitled to compensation. Talk to a local attorney who is familiar with state and local laws and regulations involving lead and lead poisoning. Lead poisoning cases involve a lot of specialized science and you should seek out an attorney who has experience with these type of cases.
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