Lead is toxic to everyone, but young children are at higher risk. Parents and staff can use this brochure to learn about the effects of unsafe levels of lead in blood and about how to avoid lead exposure.
What Is Lead Poisoning?
Lead is a metal that is harmful, especially to the nerves, when it builds up in the body. Children and pregnant women are at high risk when exposed.
How Do I Protect My Child from Lead?
- Recognize where lead is found and how it gets into the body.
- Avoid exposure whenever you can.
Where Do You Find Lead?
Lead exposure can be higher near truck routes and certain factories, for example. Toys and candies made outside the U.S., in places where rules for making things are less strict, may contain lead. Lead can also be found in old paint and certain pottery dishes. Think about what is in your environment and ask questions!
- Lead in water
- Lead glazed pottery
- Lead painted toys
- Lead from soil
- Lead soldered cans
- Peeling lead paint
- Airborne lead
- Lead crystal
Who Is at Greatest Risk?
Children under the age of 6 and pregnant women.
How Does Lead Get into Your Child’s Body?
- Children breathe in the lead or get it on their hands or toys and swallow it.
- Their small bodies absorb more lead.
- They crawl on the floor or in soil outside and then put their hands or other objects in their mouths.
- Lead can also be passed from mother to unborn baby during pregnancy.
What Are the Risks of Lead Poisoning?
Small amounts of lead can build up in the body and cause us to get sick.
Build-up of lead in children is especially dangerous because:
- Lead sickness does not always cause symptoms we can see.
- Lead can permanently harm the brain and nervous system of your child.
- Lead can cause learning problems, attention problems, and behavior problems in your child.
- Lead can sometimes cause speech and hearing problems and slow down your child’s growth.
How Do You Test for Lead Poisoning?
- Talk with your health care provider about the risk for your child.
- A blood test, through either finger stick or blood draw, is the only way to know for sure.
Many children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick!
Protect Your Family from Lead
Remove Any Lead in Your Home
- Use wet paper towels to clean up dust with lead.
- Clean often around windows and play areas, and wet mop floors often.
- Wash hands and toys often with soap and water.
- Use duct tape to cover chipping or peeling paint.
Give Your Child Healthy Foods
- Feed your child healthy meals with foods like milk, cheese, green leafy vegetables, peanut butter, beans, cereals, oranges, and peppers. Foods with vitamin C, iron, and calcium may help keep lead out of the body.
Get Your Child Tested and Contact Your Health Department
- Contact your local health department or doctor if you see chipping or peeling paint or think there may be lead in or around your home.
- You may need an expert to help you remove the lead in your home.
- Call the National Lead Information Center at (800) 424-5323
- Visit the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) website.
REMEMBER: Protect Your Family from Lead
- Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born!
- Separate children and pregnant women from home repair areas or areas with peeling/ chipping paint.
- Even children who seem healthy may have dangerous levels of lead in their bodies.
- Tell your health care provider about your home to check if there is risk.
- Be aware of the risks where you and your child live, work, and play.
The Good News: Lead Poisoning Is 100 percent Preventable! You Can Protect Your Family!
Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.
Resource Type: Publication
National Centers: Health, Behavioral Health, and Safety
Last Updated: September 22, 2023