Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program

Children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk for lead exposure because they are growing so rapidly and because they tend to put their hands and other objects, which may be contaminated, into their mouths. Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and, at very high levels, seizures, coma, and even death.

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. There are many ways parents can reduce a child’s exposure to lead. Lead hazards in a child’s environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.

Sources of Lead Exposure

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for children. Other sources of lead exposure include:

  • Artificial Turf
  • Candy
  • Folk Medicine
  • Toy Jewelry
  • Toys

Preventing Lead Exposure

  1. Residential Paint Sources
  2. Non-Residential Paint Sources

Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.

Review the following guidelines for more information on residential paint sources:

  • Talk to your state or local health department about testing paint and dust from your home for lead.
  • Make sure your child does not have access to peeling paint or chewable surfaces painted with lead-based paint.
  • Children and pregnant women should not be present in housing built before 1978 that is undergoing renovation. They should not participate in activities that disturb old paint or in cleaning up paint debris after work is completed.
  • Create barriers between living/play areas and lead sources. Until environmental clean-up is completed, you should clean and isolate all sources of lead. Close and lock doors to keep children away from chipping or peeling paint on walls. You can also apply temporary barriers such as contact paper or duct tape, to cover holes in walls or to block children’s access to other sources of lead.
  • Regularly wash children’s hands and toys. Hands and toys can become contaminated from household dust or exterior soil. Both are known lead sources.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe window components every 2 to 3 weeks. Windowsills and wells can contain high levels of leaded dust. If feasible, windows should be shut to prevent abrasion of painted surfaces or opened from the top sash. Take off shoes when entering the house to prevent bringing lead-contaminated soil in from outside.
  • Prevent children from playing in bare soil around the house. Plant grass on areas of bare soil or cover the soil with grass seed, mulch, or wood chips. Until the bare soil is covered, move play areas away from bare soil and away from the sides of the house. A sandbox is a great alternative. If you have a sandbox, cover the box when not in use to prevent cats from using it as a litter box. That will help protect children from exposure to animal waste.

Print a coloring storybook on lead-safe work (PDF).