Lead Poisoning

Lead is a metal found in many things around us (paint, ceramics, water, soil and dust). You or your child can eat, drink or breathe in lead. When too much lead gets into your body, it is called lead poisoning. For more information please read through this section.

Kid focus

How do children get lead in their body?

Ordinary dust and dirt may contain lead. Children can get lead in their bodies if they swallow or breathe dust contaminated with lead. If they play in dust or dirt and then put their hands or toys in their mouth, they will put lead in their bodies. When children eat paint chips and chew things painted with old paint, lead gets in their bodies. When children play with toys covered with lead dirt, they also bring lead in their bodies. Food and water may also contain lead.

How can lead hurt my child?

Lead poisoning is harmful to your child’s body and may cause many serious long-term problems to your child’s learning, growth, attention, hearing — and his or her brain. Those problems can be limited if caught early by preventing lead from getting in your child’s body and getting medical treatment for your child.

How can I know if my child has lead poisoning?

There may be lead around your family and you may not know it because you cannot see, taste or smell lead. Children with lead poisoning do not look sick. Even children who look and act healthy may have high lead levels. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is to have him or her tested. The harm caused by lead poisoning may never go away. Your child should be tested.

What does the test for lead consist of?

A health care worker will take only a small amount of your child’s blood. The test takes only a few minutes.

Do children of all ages need to be tested?

Children who are 1 to 6 years old are at higher risk for lead poisoning and should be tested. Children should be tested before the age of 2 because at this age lead is most harmful to the brain. Children who receive Medicaid or any other type of public assistance, live in or regularly visit a house built before 1950, live in or regularly visit a house built before 1978 that is being remodeled, arrived in the U.S. within one year, or have a sibling or playmate with lead poisoning should be tested for lead poisoning when they are a year old and again when they are 2.

How can I keep my child safe from lead poisoning?

There are several things you can do to keep your child safe from lead poisoning. Always wash your child’s hands before meals, before bedtime, and after your child has been playing outside. Have all family members remove their shoes before coming in the house to avoid tracking in soil that may have lead in it. Feed your child foods high in calcium and iron. Keep your child away from peeling paint. Use caution when doing repairs on houses built before 1978 because paint in these houses may contain lead. Consider moving your child out of the house while repairs are being made. Remember, the only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning is to have him or her tested.

What are some jobs or hobbies that may expose me to lead?

If you work in auto repair, battery repair, painting, construction, steel welding and cutting, plumbing, police work or work on boats, you may be exposed to lead while doing your job. If your hobbies include fishing, working on cars, painting, stained glass, soldering, shooting guns, building model cars or boats, or working with pottery you may be exposed to lead. If you work in any of these jobs or have these hobbies, you should change your clothes and shoes before you come home and wash your hands well to avoid bringing lead home and making your family sick.