Lead poisoned children are likely to suffer life-long consequences. Even a small amount of lead can have a negative effect on a child’s development and can cause serious health problems, including learning disabilities, loss of IQ, reduced attention span, behavior, and speech/language development. Fortunately, parents can take actions to protect children from lead poisoning.
Could My Child Be at Risk for Lead Exposure?
- Do you live in an older pre- 1978 house?
- Does your child spend time in an older pre- 1978 house?
- Does your child spend time with an adult whose job exposes him or her to lead (e.g., constructions, painting, metal cutting, recycling)?
- Does your child frequently put objects (toys, pacifiers, hands, bottles) in his or her mouth?
- Have you moved to an older pre- 1978 building since your child’s last blood lead test?
If you answered yes or don’t know for any of these questions, ask your doctor for a blood lead test for your child.
How Can I Prevent Lead Poisoning in My Child?
- Think about how to keep lead dust out of your child’s mouth. Wash his or her hands before eating and before sleeping, wash his or her toys and pacifiers, don’t let your child eat food that has fallen on the floor, and feed your child at a clean table or high chair.
- If your child plays near a window with old paint, put something like furniture in front of the window so that your child can’t touch the old paint.
- Run cold water from the faucet for at least one minute or until the temperature drops before your drink it or cook with it. Never use hot water from the faucet for drinking, cooking, or making baby formula.
- Give your child foods that are high in iron, vitamin C, and calcium.
- Wash the floor often where your child plays using lead-safe practices.
- Keep your child from playing in soil near older buildings that may be contaminated by lead paint chips or dust.
- If you work in house painting or renovating, construction, soldering, welding, or auto body work, keep your work clothes away from the rest of the family’s laundry and wash your close separately.
- Learn more about how to reduce lead hazards in your home or in your apartment.
What Should I Do If My Child is Exposed to Lead?
- Most children who have lead poisoning do not look or act sick. A lead test is the only way to know if your child has lead poisoning. Ask your child’s doctor to do a blood lead test on your child.
- Take steps to identify and eliminate sources of lead exposure for your child.
What Should I Do If My Child’s Blood Lead is High?
- Talk to your child’s doctor about when follow up blood tests should be done to make sure your child’s lead level is going down.
- It is important to find and fix the lead hazards in your home. Consider having your home tested for lead. Depending on your state of residence and your child’s blood lead level, you may be required to have your home tested for lead and to fix any lead hazards.
- Talk to your child’s doctor about potential treatments for your child. Depending on your child’s blood lead level, your doctor may recommend treating your child with iron or medicines that remove the lead from the blood (called chelation). Your doctor may also advise you to change your child’s diet, including adding more foods with iron, vitamin C, and calcium.
Protect Your Baby Before Birth
- Lead can pass from the mother to her unborn child before birth. Very high levels of lead can increase the risk of a miscarriage. It can also cause the baby to be born too small or too early.
- Be careful redoing a room for your baby. If your house or apartment was built before 1978, the mother should not do any of the work herself or be home while work is being done.
- When you are pregnant, you and other family members should not use items that contain lead, such as cosmetics, folk medicines, and some arts and crafts supplies.
- Eats foods high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron. These foods help prevent lead from getting into your blood and harming your unborn baby.
- Take your prenatal vitamins every day. Do not use bone meal or dolomite as calcium supplements, as they may contain lead.
Resources for Parents/Guardians
- CDC’s “Prevent Childhood Lead Poisoning” Infographic
- For state-specific information, check out the resources below:
- Connecticut’s Lead Poisoning Prevention and Control Program
- Maine’s Childhood Lead Poisoning Program
- Massachusetts’ Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
- New Hampshire’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
- Rhode Island’s Lead Poisoning Information
- Vermont’s Lead Poisoning Prevention Guidance for Parents