I-TEAM INVESTIGATES: This one item in your pocket that you use every day can make your kid sick with lead poisoning

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Wednesday, May 22, 2019
News 12 at 6 O’Clock/NBC at 7

AUGUSTA, GA (WRDW/WAGT) – Keeping toddlers from melting down is a full-time job, and parents know everything goes in their mouth.

Our I-team's Laura Warren asked the health department what sort of things they see most when they investigate lead poisoning. We were surprised when they told us, keys.

“Until I got in this position, I didn’t know either,” Lashanda Lee, regional lead coordinator for the Richmond County Health Department said.

When kids in our area test positive for lead, it’s Lee’s job to find out why.

“I'll go out to the homes to try to find where the lead source is coming from to help the parent ease their mind to find out where it is actually poisoning their children,” Lee said.

Lee investigates about 30 child lead poisoning cases a year in our area -- mostly in Richmond County. And those are just the confirmed cases. Sometimes she finds old toys to blame, sometimes lead paint on the walls, but she's also learned to ask a not so obvious question over the years.

“One of those questions I’ll ask is about keys,” Lee said. “A lot of parents, they give their children their keys to play with and we don't know that some of them contain lead.”

Lead is toxic to everyone, but unborn babies and kids under 3 are at the greatest risk. Young kids absorb lead more easily than older kids, and it can cause serious developmental issues.

So, we tested several keys. Every key we tested was positive for lead.

And you can’t simply test your keys using a store-bought kit either since those only test for lead in paint.

Lee’s best advice is to keep keys away from your kids.

If your child has any of these signs, talk to your doctor. They will decide if they need to run lab work to check for lead:

HEADACHES
BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS AND TROUBLE CONCENTRATING
LOSS OF APPETITE
WEIGHT LOSS
NAUSEA AND VOMITTING
CONSTIPATION
A METALLIC TASTE IN THE MOUTH
FEELING TIRED
MUSCLE AND JOINT WEAKNESS
LOOKING PALE

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