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Childhood Lead Poisoning

​Children are at much higher risk of developing lasting negative effects from lead poisoning due to their small size and developing bodies. No safe blood lead level has been identified for children.

Why is this important?

Lead can affect almost every system in the human body. It is especially harmful to the brain and nervous system of unborn babies and children. Exposure to lead early in life can result in:

  • Behavior and learning problems
  • Lower IQ and hyperactivity
  • Delayed growth
  • Hearing problems
  • Anemia
  • Reduced growth of the fetus
  • Premature birth

What is known?​

Lead is a naturally-occurring element in the earth and can be found in high concentrations in some areas. Other areas have been contaminated by human activity. Lead was added to gasoline and paint until the 1970s. Lead can now be found in the soil in many places and millions of houses still have lead paint.

Lead from paint in older houses can become dangerous when the houses age. Surfaces begin to wear and chip, resulting in dust and paint chips containing lead. This dust can contaminate the soil around the house or carpet and floor within the home. Home renovation activities like sanding and scraping painted surfaces can disturb the paint layer and contribute to lead contamination in and around the home. Lead can also be found in some plumbing. The lead in these pipes can sometimes leach into drinking water.

Who is at risk?​

  • Children living in pre-1978 housing
    • Young children spend much of their time crawling and playing on the ground. They also tend to put objects in their mouths frequently. Because of this, they are at high risk for ingesting lead particles in contaminated dust in the home.
  • Pregnant women.
    • Lead accumulates in our bones over our lifetimes and is released during pregnancy and lactation.
  • Some occupations are at increased risk for lead poisoning
    • Auto workers
    • Battery manufacturers
    • Construction workers
    • Plumbers and pipe fitters
    • Police officers and firing range instructors
    • Lead miners, refiners, smelters

Reduce your risk:

  • Have paint and dust from your home tested.
  • Make sure children don't have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces.
  • Create barriers between lead sources and areas where children live and play.
  • Wash hand and toys regularly.
  • Wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components regularly.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil.
  • Talk to your children's healthcare provider to see if they should be tested for lead poisoning. ​