Lead Poisoning


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What Is Lead & Lead Poisoning

Lead is a metal that occurs in nature. It can be found in the soil and many other objects that we use in everyday life, like our car batteries, fishing weights, etc. Lead only becomes dangerous when it enters our bodies through our mouths and noses. Lead poisoning is caused by having too much lead in the body. Anyone who eats, drinks or breathes something which has too much lead can get lead poisoning. Lead is especially dangerous when it get into the bodies of children. Since children's bodies are still developing, lead poisoning can cause serious problems in their nervous systems. Sometimes children with lead poisoning can have learning disabilities and other health problems. Many of those affected by lead poisoning never even look sick. Fortunately, lead poisoning can be detected and it can be prevented.

What Every Parent Should Know About Lead Poisoning In Children

  • For children at risk for lead exposure, a simple blood test can prevent a lifetime spoiled by the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning.
  • Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.
  • Children between 12 and 36 months of age have a lot of hand to mouth activity, so if there is lead in their homes, they are more likely to take it in than are older children.
  • One of the most important risk factors for lead exposure is the age of housing. Over 85 percent of all homes built before 1978 in the U.S. have lead-based paint in them. The older the house, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint and a higher concentration of lead in the paint.
  • According to recent CDC estimates, 310,000 U.S. children age 1-5 have elevated blood lead levels, and more than one-fifth of African-American children living in housing built before 1946 have elevated blood lead levels. These figures reflect the major sources of lead exposure: deteriorated paint in older housing, and dust and soil that are contaminated with lead from old paint and from past emissions of leaded gasoline.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lead Poisoning 

Can lead hurt my child?

Yes, it can. Lead can harm virtually every system in the human body. Lead is particularly harmful to the developing brain and nervous system of fetuses and young children. Children who have lead poisoning can get very sick. Children can get sick if they eat lead paint or breathe lead in dust. Children who get sick from lead may have trouble learning in school.

How do children get lead poisoning?

  • The most common cause of lead poisoning is from the lead paints that were used in the 1970's and earlier. Lead is also in dust, soil, water, food, and in the air. Children can get lead poisoning:
  • by putting hands or toys with lead dust on them in their mouths.
  • when contaminated tap water (from lead pipes) is used to make baby formula.
  • by playing in dirt contaminated by lead.
  • from certain home remedies, "health foods", imported candies and cosmetics.
  • by eating the lead paint chips that peel off walls.
  • by chewing on window sills and door frames.

How do I know if my child has lead poisoning?

In most cases there are no visible symptoms of elevated blood-lead levels or lead poisoning. Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. The only way to know if your child has lead poisoning is for the child to get a blood test for lead. Talk to your child’s health care provider.

Who should get a blood lead test?

  • Children age 12 months and 24 months who are enrolled in publicly funded health care such as Medi-Cal, Child Health and Disability Program (CHDP), the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), or Healthy Families are at high risk and should be tested. Cost for the test is covered by government health programs and most health insurance plans.

  • Children enrolled in publicly-funded health care who are between 24 months and 6 years old that have not been tested at the appropriate times.

  • Children in Head Start Preschool are required to have a blood lead test for enrollment.

  • Young children under six years of age who spend time in homes, childcare centers, or buildings built before 1978 that have chipping or peeling paint should be tested.
    Any infant or child who is thought to be at risk or comes in contact with items that may contain lead should be tested. 

If you don't have a doctor, The Yolo County Children's Health Initiative can assist you. Just call (530) 757-5558 or visit http://www.yolohealthykids.org/The staff will help you to find the best health insurance for your child.

Where is testing for blood-lead levels available? How much does testing cost?

Your private physician or health care clinic can test for blood-lead levels. Many private insurance policies cover the cost of testing for blood-lead levels. The cost of a blood-lead test generally ranges from $10 to $75, plus the charge for an office visit. If you have Medi-Cal or if you are in the Child Health and Disability Prevention Program (CHDP), the test is free.

Is there a cure for lead poisoning?

Except for severely poisoned children, there is no medical treatment for this disease. Available treatments slowly reduce the level of lead present in the body. The only way to prevent continued lead poisoning is to remove the source of exposure. Removing the lead from a person's environment helps to ensure a decline in blood-lead levels. The longer a person is exposed to lead, the greater the likelihood that damage to the person's health will result.

Should pregnant women be concerned about lead poisoning?

Lead can be passed from the pregnant woman to the fetus, so women should take steps to ensure that they do not have excessive lead exposure during pregnancy. Specifically, pregnant women should not:

  • engage in any activity that disturbs lead-based paint.
  • live in or be present in a house or apartment where work is under way that disturbs lead-based paint.
  • return to a house or apartment where lead-based paint has been disturbed until at least 24 hours after the work has been completed.

What can I do to protect my family?

  • Have your children tested for lead at 12 and 24 months.
  • Keep children away from peeling paint. If your home was built before 1978, and you have peeling paint, call the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) lead information line at 1-800-424-LEAD or visit http://www.hud.gov/offices/lead/.
  • Wash children's hands before they eat, after they play outdoors and before they go to sleep. Wash your hands before preparing food.
  • Wet mop floors, and wipe furniture, window sills and other dusty surfaces.
  • Don't let children play under bridges or near highways and heavily traveled roads.
  • Serve meals that are high in iron and calcium to help prevent lead from being absorbed into your children's bodies.
  • Run cold water for at least a minute before using. Never use hot water from the faucet to make baby formula or for cooking.
  • For testing water, call the Department of Environmental Protection 1-800-426-4791 or visit http://www.epa.gov/safewater/.   

I live in an apartment. Does my landlord have responsibility to remove lead-based paint from my apartment?

If you have a child under six who has a blood level of 20ug/dL or more, your landlord may be required to take certain actions. Laws and regulations vary according to the jurisdiction in which you live.

I live in a public housing project. Does the housing authority have to do anything about lead-based paint?

If you live in a development which was built before 1978, the housing authority should have given you a brochure telling you that the property may contain lead-based paint. The brochure describes the hazards of lead-based paint, the symptoms and treatment of lead poisoning, and the advisability and availability of blood-lead levels screening for children under seven years of age. If your child has an elevated blood-lead level of 20 ug/dL or more, the housing authority must test your apartment within five days after being notified by your doctor of your child's high blood-lead level. If lead-based paint is found during testing the housing authority must treat those surfaces within 14 days. If the housing authority is unable to treat the hazardous surfaces, then the housing authority must either move your family into a unit that was previously treated or one that was built after 1978.

Where Is Lead Found?

Lead In Paint Lead In Paint
Lead can be found in paint that is on the inside and outside of older homes and buildings. Paint inside homes can wear down and mix with household dust and dirt. It can then get on toys and fingers, which children put in their mouths.
Lead In Soil Lead In Soil
Lead can be found in dirt near older homes and buildings because paint on the outside of the buildings wears down and mixes with dirt. Lead can also be found in dirt due to factory pollution and from the use of leaded gasoline.
Lead On The Job Lead On The Job
Lead is found in certain workplaces. Lead is used at places that make or recycle batteries, repair radiators, and at lead smelters.
Lead In Home Remedies & Cosmetics Lead In Home Remedies & Cosmetics
Lead is in some home remedies and cosmetics. These include: Azarcon, Greta, Pay~loo~ah, Ghasard, Bala Goli, Kandu, Kohl, Surma, and Kajal.
 Lead in Pottery Other Places Lead Can Be Found
Lead can also be found in some pottery, dishes, and cookware.  Lead paint can sometimes be found in the paint on imported toys and in imported candies.

Simple Things You Can Do To Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning

Wet Mop Floors 


Don't Sand, Burn, or Scrape Paint


Healthy Eating Habits


Don't Use Imported Ceramics


 Move Furniture Away From Damaged Paint

  • Keep your home as clean and free from dust as possible. The best way to clean up lead dust is to regularly wet mop your floors, wipe window ledges, and wash all surfaces with water and household detergent.

  • Take off your shoes before entering the house, or make sure they are well wiped on a doormat outside the house. This will help prevent lead dust and soil from getting into the house.

  • Change out of your work clothes and take a shower before coming home from work if you work with lead at your job. Lead dust brought home on the clothes of workers can spread in the house and poison children.

  • Never sand, burn, or scrape paint unless you know that it does not contain lead.

  • Test painted surfaces for lead in any area that you plan to remodel, before you begin the work. If lead is in the paint, learn how to handle the paint safely. If the work is not done the right way, lead dust can scatter and poison your family, pets, neighbors, and workers. (See Lead In Paint to learn how to get paint tested).

  • Encourage healthy eating habits. Eating regular and healthy meals may make it harder for lead to hurt your child. Meals should include fruits and vegetables as well as calcium-rich foods (milk, cheese, yogurt, corn tortillas, tofu, or bean curd) and iron-rich foods (meat, chicken, iron-fortified cereals, raisins, and dried fruit). (See Food Tips for more ideas).

  • Wash Children's hands often, especially before eating.

  • Do not use older, imported, or handmade dishes for serving, preparing, or storing food or drink unless you know that they do not contain lead. For more information on testing for lead in dishes, call the Yolo County Health Department (530) 666-8645.

  • Avoid hobbies that use lead. Hobbies that use lead include soldering, or making stained glass, bullets, or fishing sinkers.

  • Keep furniture away from damaged paint. Do not place cribs, playpens, beds, or high chairs next to areas where paint is chipping or peeling, or can be chewed.

  • Do not use home remedies or cosmetics that contain lead like Azarcon, Greta, Pay~loo~ah, and Alkohl or Kohl. These remedies often contain a lot of lead and can make children very sick.

Food Tips To Help Protect Your Child From Lead Poisoning

It is harder for lead to get into the blood when your child eats:
  • Regular meals and snacks
  • Foods high in calcium
  • Foods high in iron

Healthy Eating can help protect your child from lead poisoning. The following colorful poster has tips and sample menu ideas for children 1 to 6 years of age.

Food Tips in English

Food Tips in English

Food Tips in Spanish

  Food Tips in Spanish

Rules About Lead For Sellers And Landlords

Lead-based paint can be found on the painted surfaces-inside and outside-of many residences built before the 1978 ban. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 83 percent of private housing built prior to 1980 contain lead-based paint. In addition, the older the home, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint. That's because lead-based paint was widely used during the first several decades of the 20th century. It was not until the 1950's that the use of lead-based paint in homes began to decline noticeably. During the 1950's, latex paint-which seldom contains lead-became the dominant paint of interior walls. Although the use of lead-based paint continued to decline throughout the 1960's and 1970's, its use was not stopped altogether until it was banned in 1978.

To help protect people against lead hazard in homes, EPA and HUD developed the Real Estate Disclosure Rule. As of December 6, 1996, the owner of any home built before 1978 must follow the guidelines set out by the Rule and inform buyers and renters about known lead-based paint hazards in the home.

According to the Rule:
If you plan to buy a home built before 1978, the seller must:

  • Tell you about any known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.
  • Give you a copy of the EPA pamphlet titled Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home. The pamphlet briefly describes lead hazards and lead poisoning.

    EPA Pamphlet English

            EPA Pamphlet Spanish
    EPA Pamphlet
    ( English )
            EPA Pamphlet
    ( Spanish )
  • Give you a 10-day opportunity to test the home for lead.
  • Include certain warning language in the sales contract and a signed statement verifying that all requirements have been met, and keep the signed statement for three years.

If you plan to rent housing built before 1978, the landlord must:

  • Tell you about any known lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards in the home.
  • Give you any records or reports about lead-based paint hazards in the home.
  • Give you a copy of the EPA pamphlet titled Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home. The pamphlet briefly describes lead hazards and lead poisoning.
    EPA Pamphlet English        

    EPA Pamphlet Spanish

    EPA Pamphlet
    ( English )
            EPA Pamphlet
    ( Spanish )
  • Include certain warning language in the sales contract and a signed statement verifying that all requirements have been met, and keep the signed statement for three years.

The owner or landlord is not required to:

  • Test the home for lead.
  • Remove any lead-based paint or lead-based paint hazards found during any testing that you conducted.

      Lead Poisoning Questionnaire 

Lead Poisoning Resources & Links

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