Educators Play a Vital Role in Protecting Children
from Lead Poisoning
“After all, it is educators who will face the formidable challenge of trying to prepare future generations of children for productive life in the 21st century after society has allowed those children to suffer ongoing lead exposure at levels known to undermine their educational potential.”
-Jacquelyne Faye Jackson, Institute of Human Development at the University of California, Berkeley
The average school-aged child spends almost 1/3 of their day, 5 days a week at an educational facility, so it’s easy to see the importance of teachers being educated in lead safety and lead hazard awareness.
According to a www.lead-edu.info/teachers.html, “very young children explore the world by putting things in their mouths, placing them at risk for ingesting lead. Exposure to lead is toxic and can cause many serious health problems including permanent brain damage and in severe cases, coma or death.”
“Even at low levels, the presence of lead in the bloodstream has been found to slow a child’s development. Children may begin displaying learning and behavioral problems, be unable to remember what they have just been taught, be excitable or hyperactive, have an inability to pay attention, get frustrated quickly, be aggressive or violent and have a lowered IQ. Children poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school.”
Key Facts for Teachers
The World Health Organization (WHO) provides these facts for you:
- Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
- Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 600 000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year.
- Lead exposure is estimated to account for 143 000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions.
- Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
- There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.
- Children poisoned by lead are seven times more likely to drop out of school.
- Lead poisoning is entirely preventable.
Also, according to a www.lead-edu.info/teachers.html, “teachers often face the consequences of childhood lead poisoning without even knowing that is what they are seeing. Here are some common symptoms:
- Children who cannot sit still long enough to read a sentence
- Children who seem bright enough but just don’t seem to learn
- Children who act out every impulse
It doesn’t take many such children in a classroom to disrupt learning for all the students. Teachers who do not realize that these may be symptoms of lead poisoning may feel overwhelmed with frustration at their seeming inability to teach these children. You need to understand that neither you nor the child has failed. The failure is the community’s in not preventing this invisible monster from stealing this child’s future.”
CLEARCorps would like to remind teachers and child caregivers that lead poisoning is 100% preventable. If you suspect lead poisoning, check your student’s file to see whether there is any documentation of blood lead level testing. Just like children with other types of brain damage, children who are lead poisoned can learn. But they need special help, and they may never learn as well or as quickly.