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What Every Family Needs to Know About Lead

What Is Lead?

Lead is a metal found in the earth and it is a poison. For years, lead was used in paint, plumbing and many other things. If your house or apartment was built before 1978, it could have lead in the paint or water pipes.

Lead is a brain poison. If lead gets in children’s bodies, it can make them very sick. It can make it hard for your child to learn and grow. Children exposed to lead may not learn as quickly in school or be as good at hitting a baseball or dribbling a basketball as other children.

Where Is Lead Found?

Lead is sneaky. It hides in many places, such as:

  • Dust and flakes from old paint on windows, doors, stairs, railings and porches
  • Water from old pipes
  • Dust and flakes from old paint in dirt around your yard

Dangers of Lead Exposure

Lead is bad for everyone, especially for children under 6 years of age. Young children eat, chew and suck on lead painted surfaces they can reach, like windowsills. Children spend a lot of time close to the floor, where they can breathe in lead dust. Young children are growing quickly, and lead can keep their brains from developing right or cause behavior problems.

A child with lead poisoning may not look or act sick. The only way to know for sure is to have your child tested. Contact your healthcare provider to discuss whether blood lead testing is needed.

How Can I Keep Lead out of My Child’s Body?

There are several ways you can help limit your child’s exposure to lead. Some examples are:

  • Never let children touch dust or flakes from old paint
  • Grown-ups should wash away lead paint flakes and dust with a damp, soapy rag
  • Kids should not be in the room when adults are cleaning up lead paint flakes or dust
  • Make sure kids wash their hands often, especially after they play and before they eat
  • Wash toys when they have been on the floor
  • Eat healthy foods, like milk and yogurt, fruits and vegetables, beans and lean meat; foods with iron and calcium help your child’s body fight off lead
  • Have your family and visitors leave shoes at the door, and wear socks and slippers in your home
  • Let your water run from the faucet 1-2 minutes before using
  • Use cold water for cooking

If you think you have lead in your home:

  • Contact your local health department to schedule an inspection
  • Wet mop all floors and windowsills
  • Avoid dry dusting or sweeping
  • Duct tape over any cracking or peeling paint until a qualified professional removes, repairs or covers the lead paint
  • Plant grass to cover bare dirt in the yard

What if the test shows my child has lead in his or her blood?

Read about interpreting your child's blood levels or contact your doctor or healthcare provider for questions about your child’s test results or treatment.

Learn More About Lead Poisoning

For more information about lead exposure, contact UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital at 216-844-LEAD (5323).

You can also get additional helpful hints and facts about lead exposure and poisoning from the resources listed below: