Health Effects of Lead Exposure
Children and Lead
Have your child's blood lead level tested at age 1 and 2. Children from 3 to 6 years of age should have their blood tested, if they have not been tested before and:
- They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1950,
- They live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978 with on-going or recent renovations or remodeling
- They have a sibling or playmate who has or did have lead poisoning
- Frequently wash your child's hands and toys to reduce contact with dust,
- Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking
- Avoid using home remedies (such as arzacon, greta, pay-loo-ah, or litargirio) and cosmetics (such as kohl or alkohl) that contain lead
- Certain candies, such as tamarindo candy jam products from Mexico, may contain high levels of lead in the wrapper or stick. Be cautious when providing imported candies to children
- Some tableware, particularly folk terra cotta plates and bowls from Latin America, may contain high levels of lead that can leach into food.
No safe level of lead exposure in children has been identified.
Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented adverse effects such as:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Slowed growth and development
- Learning and behavior problems
- Hearing and speech problems
- This can cause:
- Lower IQ
- Decreased ability to pay attention
- Underperformance in school
There is also evidence that childhood exposure to lead can cause long-term harm.
Sources of Lead
Lead can be found throughout a child’s environment.
- Homes built before 1978 (when lead-based paints were banned) probably contain lead-based paint. When the paint peels and cracks, it makes lead dust. Children can be poisoned when they swallow or breathe in lead dust.
- Certain water pipes may contain lead.
- Lead can be found in some products such as toys and jewelry.
- Lead is sometimes in candies imported from other countries or traditional home remedies.
- Certain jobs and hobbies involve working with lead-based products, like stain glass work, and may cause parents to bring lead into the home.
- Children who live near airports may be exposed to lead in air and soil from aviation gas.
The good news: Lead poisoning is 100% preventable.
Take these steps to make your home lead-safe.
- Talk with your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead if you live in a home built before 1978.
- Renovate safely. Common renovation activities (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust. If you’re planning renovations, use contractors certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (visit www.epa.gov/leadexternal icon for information).
- Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children and discard as appropriate. Stay up-to-date on current recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission
- Wipe down flat surfaces, like window sills, with a damp paper towel and throw away the paper towel,
- Mop smooth floors (using a damp mop) weekly to control dust,
- Take off shoes when entering the house
- Vacuum carpets and upholstery to remove dust,
- If possible, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter or a "higher efficiency" collection bag,
- Pick up loose paint chips carefully with a paper towel and discard in the trash, then wipe the surface clean with a wet paper towel,
- Take precautions to avoid creating lead dust when remodeling, renovating or maintaining your home,
- Test for lead hazards by a lead professional. (Have the soil tested too).