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About Lead Poisoning

Lead is the most common environmental toxin in children.  It is most common in children ages 1 to 3 years old.

Lead can be found in a surprising number of places in our daily lives. Once the lead enters your child's system, it collects and is difficult to remove. The good news is that lead poisoning is preventable.

Children with lead poisoning rarely have symptoms.  However, children with lead poisoning may develop problems in school with:

  • Speech
  • Behavior  
  • The ability to learn
  • Lower intelligence

Sources of Lead

Children are most commonly exposed to lead from three sources: deteriorated paint, household dust, and exterior soil.

Although the use of lead in residential paint was banned in 1978, three-fourths of housing built before 1980 contain some leaded paint.  In addition, the amount of lead in paint is much greater in homes built before 1950 than in homes built later.  Children are exposed to lead if they eat paint chips from deteriorated painted surfaces.

Although children can directly eat paint chips, ingesting house dust or soil contaminated by leaded paint is the most common way that children are exposed to lead.  Household dust becomes contaminated with lead when a paint surface deteriorates or undergoes renovation.  The paint chalks or chips off from normal wear-and-tear and deteriorates into dust.  Young children, playing on the floor, get their hands dirty.  These young children normally put their fingers into their mouths and thus accidentally consume the lead.

Lead contamination of soil also occurs when paint deteriorates into it.  Children, playing in the soil, get their hands dirty.  Later, they put their hands in their mouths, and accidentally consume the lead.

Lead found in tap water usually is from the lead-containing materials found in household plumbing.  This is especially true for water that has sat in plumbing for many hours.

Less common, but sometimes significant sources of lead may come from occupations, hobbies, folk medicines, and imported cosmetics. A list of these sources may be found at:

www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/CaseManagement/caseManage_appendixes.htm#Appendix%20I.