Physical Health

Lead Poisoning Prevention

Protecting children from exposure to lead is important to lifelong good health and school readiness. There is no safe blood lead level for children. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect intelligence quotient (IQ), attention span, and academic achievement. The most important step adults can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

Children under the age of 6 years old are at risk for lead poisoning because they are developing so rapidly and tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths, which may be contaminated with lead dust. Children at higher risk for lead exposure often fall into at least one of the following groups:

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  • Members of racial or ethnic minority groups
  • Recent immigrants
  • Have parents who are exposed to lead at work
  • Live in older, poorly maintained rental properties or areas with outdated plumbing
  • Low-income

Check out the Office of Head Start blog on Lead Exposure.

Lead screening measures the amount of lead in blood and determines a child's risk for poisoning. Head Start programs must work with parents to ensure all enrolled children are screened for blood lead levels. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) requires universal blood lead screening for all Medicaid-eligible children, under their states' Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Testing (EPSDT) schedule. As of 2012, states may apply for a waiver to transition to targeted screening. Contact your state Medicaid office to determine if your state is using a targeted approach to blood lead testing.

Last Updated: July 16, 2018