San Diego, California - Lead poisoning is a silent threat to your children that could be lurking in many places around your home or property.

It is a preventable condition caused by breathing in lead dust or eating something that has been contaminated with lead. It often occurs with no visible or obvious symptoms and frequently goes unrecognized.

The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program (CLPPP) has recently begun a community outreach and education program aimed at the parents of chidlren under the age of 6. 

"Lead poisoning is still a risk as long as there are people living in older homes that may have lead-based paint,” said Lillan Jalali, a CLPPP community health promotion specialist.

Besides lead-based paint, other potential sources include soil contaminated from leaded gasoline use or factory pollution; imported toys or crayons; imported tamarind, chili powder and chili-coated candies; handmade or imported pottery; home remedies such as azarcon and greta; and jewelry.

Wednesday the CLPPP was at the Santee Farmers’ Market handing out information, answering questions and providing families with a certificate for $10 in fresh fruits and vegetables from vendors.

“We do farmers’ markets and events that help us reach our target audience of parents with children under the age of 6,” said Jalali.

Farmers’ markets are an especially strategic venue because the program has really been emphasizing the role of nutrition in preventing lead poisoning.

"We're teaching parents about the importance of good nutrition to help prevent childhood lead poisoning," said Jalali. "If a child is lacking in Vitamin C, calcium or iron they are more likely to become poisoned if exposed to lead.

"We're emphasizing good nutrition more and it fits with the Live Well San Diego initiative,” she said, referring to the County’s effort to improve the well-being of residents.

Lead poisoning can damage the brain, kidneys and nervous system of young children. Even low levels of exposure can cause learning and behavioral problems.

The only way to find out if your child has lead poisoning is to get a blood test.

The CLPPP recommends that children with publicly funded insurance be tested when they are 1 and 2 years old and anytime up to the age of 6 if they have never been screened before.  Medi-Cal and low-income children can get free medical checkups, including a blood lead test. For information call the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program at 800-675-2229.

Children with health insurance should be tested for lead poisoning by their health care provider any time it is possible the child might have been exposed to lead.

For more information visit the CLPPP website.