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Region 1: EPA New England

Unit Descriptions

Healthy Beginnings: Lead Safe Families
A Free ESL Curriculum on How to Prevent Lead Poisoning in the Home

Created by Education Development Center, Inc.
Sponsored by the Environmental Protection Agency

Going to the Doctor
In this unit, students are encouraged to think about the importance of routine lead screening at sick or well-child visits to the doctor. Through patient-physician dialogues, students learn that children under the age of six are most at risk for lead poisoning and that all children between the ages of nine months and six years should be checked for lead. These tests are very important for children who live or spend time in older buildings that may have lead paint. Students also role-play a conversation between a parent and a doctor to help strengthen their communication skills with physicians and other health care providers about health concerns such as lead poisoning. Students learn that blood tests can help determine if someone has taken too much lead before they show any outward signs of illness and that a lead test result of 10 micrograms per deciliter may be considered dangerous to children. Finally, students explore ways that parents can help limit the effects of lead poisoning such as getting good medical care for their child(ren), feeding their child(ren) a nutritious and balanced diet, and keeping objects that have lead away from their child(ren).

Identifying Symptoms of Illness
This unit helps students develop a vocabulary for describing their symptoms of illness, including those symptoms associated with severe lead poisoning (e.g., a lead test result that is equal to or greater than 20 micrograms of lead per deciliter). How do you Feel? Through a series of patient-provider dialogues and discussion exercises, students review the general symptoms of illness and the symptoms of serious lead poisoning, such as stomach aches, loss of appetite, loss of interest in play, and irritability. Students learn that most children who have lead poisoning never look sick. In unit activities, they read and talk about how lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavior problems, emotional retardation, and stunted growth later in life. Most important, students learn that prevention is the best way to protect children from lead poisoning because no treatment completely removes lead from the body.

Making Water Safe to Drink
In this unit, students learn how to test their water for lead and strategies for reducing lead content in water. Through reading, discussion, and written exercises, students learn that they should test their water if their supply comes from a drinking well, pipes with lead solder, or water known to be very corrosive. Students are encouraged to collect water samples from home. They also discover where they can get their water tested (i.e., at certified laboratories). Students talk about and distinguish between safe and unsafe levels of lead in the water. They learn that if water has too much lead, families can reduce the risk of lead poisoning by running the faucet for a minute before drinking the water, and cooking or washing vegetables with cold water. Students also examine more costly solutions, such as using bottled water and installing a recommended filter. This unit also includes some discussion of pregnancy and lead. Students learn that lead can pass to the fetus and that lead exposure during pregnancy may result in miscarriage, low birth weight, birth defects, and slower development in children. Students review precautions that pregnant women can take to protect themselves and the fetus from lead poisoning.

Preparing and Storing Food
Wash Your Hands In this unit, students examine the number of ways lead can get into food: lead dust settles on food stored in open containers; lead-based glazes on handmade or imported dishes leach into the food; lead from the soil in city gardens can be absorbed into vegetables; and lead in the water gets on food during cooking. Through reading, discussion, and written activities, students learn ways that families can carefully prepare and store food so that it is not contaminated with lead. Students also review some additional household changes that reduce the risk of lead in the home; changes that do not take much time and can easily become part of their everyday lives. Students learn that one important way to reduce the amount of lead children absorb is by preparing and feeding them nutritious and balanced meals. At the end of the unit, students practice developing balanced and nutritious menus that include foods high in calcium, iron, and vitamin C.

Avoiding Dangers in the Dirt
Through a story about growing food in the city, students learn ways to test for lead in the soil and strategies for reducing children's exposure to lead. Students learn that almost all the lead in soil comes from lead-based paint chips flaking from homes. They learn that the danger of lead in soil depends on the amount of lead in the soil around the house and the amount of soil that gets into children. In general, vegetables that are grown in soil containing lead do not absorb much lead, but students learn that they should wash these vegetables carefully to remove any soil. To determine if their soil contains lead, students can collect soil samples from areas in their yard where children normally play and send the samples to laboratories for testing. They discuss what levels of lead are dangerous in soil and precautions they should take to reduce children's exposure to lead in soil.

Finding the Right Home
For many new immigrants in this country, finding the right home is an important issue. Each family will have its own decision to make when it rents an apartment or buys a house. This unit explores the factors that families consider when selecting a home with a special emphasis on identifying risks of lead poisoning. Students identify, through a conversation between landlord and potential tenant, the things that may indicate lead hazards, such as a house built before 1978; peeling or chipping paint; and painted windows, doors, and door frames. Students also explore the steps they and their landlords should take to reduce the risk of lead poisoning. Again, the issue of pregnancy and lead poisoning is discussed. Students learn that pregnant women should avoid excessive exposure to lead in water, soil, and paint (dust).

Identifying Household Hazards
Kids Playing In this unit, students practice identifying household hazards, such as lead paint. Students explore various safety issues through a story about concerned parents and learn that the danger of lead in paint depends on the amount of lead paint in the house and the amount of lead dust that gets into children. Students identify things in the home that may indicate lead hazards, such as a house built before 1978; painted woodwork on doors, windows, or trim; and peeling or chipping paint. Students also have the option of collecting paint samples from their homes to test for lead. Finally, they learn that they can have someone else test their paint for lead and discuss what the results of a lead paint test mean.

Making Your Home Safe
This is a very general unit designed to point out that lead is only one of many household hazards that can cause harm to children. The unit includes a safety checklist that helps students identify hazards in their home. Students learn that one of the greatest household hazards is lead and that children with lead in their blood are at increased risk of developing health and learning problems later in life. Students also read a story about a young mother who discovers, at a routine medical checkup, that her children have lead poisoning. The emphasis of the unit is on the simple steps families can take to reduce the risk of childhood lead poisoning in their homes. Using illustrations, students review these strategies and talk about ways to implement them in their homes.

Renovating Your Home
Home renovations and repairs can increase the amount of lead dust in the home and, thus, the amount absorbed by children and other household members. In this unit, students learn that before repairing or renovating a home or apartment, they should call the local health department and ask if individuals there or elsewhere can test for lead-based paint. Students also examine ways to make lead paint in their homes less dangerous: replacing it, covering it, or removing it. The first two methods are the safest; the third is the most dangerous. This unit emphasizes that homeowners should not attempt to remove lead paint themselves; they should hire a qualified contractor. Students read and discuss a checklist that describes guidelines contractors should follow when removing lead.

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