North Central Health District


Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

Protecting Your Children From Danger

Lead is a metal commonly found in the environment in soil and industrial paints. Lead exposure occurs in the home environment due to deteriorating paint, which is peeling, chipping, or chalking. Deteriorating paint chips can be ingested by small children, and create a dust which many children also come into contact with lead by hand-to-mouth exposure and inhalation. Childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over half a million children aged 1 to 5 years of age in the United States have blood lead levels which put them at risk for neurological damages and associated behavioral damages with increased exposure.

The goal of the Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is to reduce and prevent children’s exposure to environmental and occupational lead hazards. Regional Healthy Homes Coordinators conduct lead-based paint inspections and risk assessments in the homes of children who are less than 6 years of age, with a venous confirmed blood lead level of 10 micrograms per deciliter or more. Families should contact their local health department if they are concerned about their children’s lead exposure.

Effects of Childhood Lead Poisoning

Lead poisoning affects children by damaging the brain and nervous system and some effects may never go away. Continued exposure to lead can cause more severe symptoms. Damage to the child’s health can include:

  • Hearing and speech problems
  • Behavioral and learning disabilities
  • Slowed growth and development

All of these symptoms of childhood lead poisoning may lead to a lower IQ, a lower ability to pay attention and underperformance in school.

How Children can be Exposed to Lead

Children can be exposed to lead via a variety of sources and different pathways throughout their environment. Common sources of lead include:

  • Lead-based paint – The most common and most dangerous source of lead exposure for children is lead-based paint. Homes built before 1978 usually contain lead-based paint. As the house ages and experiences regular wear and tear, paint has a tendency to chip peel, crack, and as a result creates lead dust, which children can inhale or ingest through hand-to-mouth contact.
  • Water – Lead soldered pipes may leach lead into the water supply. If homeowners know their home has older pipes, and feel they could be at risk, it is very important that families utilize cold water for cooking. Utilizing hot water may cause lead to be dissolved in the water more quickly.
  • Toys/Jewelry – Some toys and jewelry contain lead.
  • Jobs/Hobbies – Some jobs and pastimes can involve lead products. Parents may accidentally expose children to lead if nor properly cleaning themselves before entering the home.

Prevent Lead Poisoning

Childhood lead poisoning is 100% preventable. You can take control of the child’s environment and reduce lead hazards before they are harmed. Lead has no smell and is invisible to the naked eye, but it can be detected with the right tools. Keep in mind these tips to protect your family from lead:

  • Contact your local health department about safe home renovations.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint, surfaces with lead-based paint or other sources of lead around the home.
  • Keep children and pregnant women away from older homes undergoing renovation.
  • Wash children’s hands and toys regularly.
  • Shower and change clothes after working with lead-based products.
  • Use cold water from the tap for cooking or drinking – hot water may contain higher levels of lead.
  • Remove recalled toys and jewelry from children. Recalled products can be found on the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s website.

Treatment for Lead Exposure

You can have your child’s blood tested for high levels of lead at your local health department. A blood test is the only way to determine if you child has a high lead level – most children will not show symptoms. Your child’s healthcare provider can recommend treatment options if  your child has high lead levels.

Contact Your Local Environmental Health Office

Call your nearest health department with any questions or concerns!

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