Lead poisoning is one of the most serious health threats for children in and around the home. Your children can be poisoned if they get lead in their bodies. Lead may cause learning and behavior problems. It may damage hearing and the nervous system, including the brain.
Where Does Lead Come From?
Lead was used in paint, water pipes, gasoline, pottery, and other places. Even though this metal is not used as much anymore, it still remains in places it was used.
The paint on your walls and windowsills may have lead in it. Household dust (from old, worn paint) may have lead in it. Your drinking water may have lead in it from your water pipes or the solder that joins pipes together. Even the soil outside your home may have lead in it. It is very important to find out if your home has lead in or around it. There are tests that will let you know and they don’t cost a lot.
How Can Lead Poison your Child?
There are many ways. Young children put their hands and everything else in their mouths, so they can eat the dust or chips of lead-based paint without knowing it. Even bits of paint too small to see can come off windows, doors, and walls, creating lead dust. Children who crawl on the floor, put toys in their mouths, or play in soil around their home or daycare can be poisoned. Children with too much lead in their bodies may not look or feel sick. A simple blood test is the only way to know if your child is being exposed to lead. Ask your doctor or health care provider to test your child for lead.
Lead paint that is in good shape is not an immediate problem. It may be a risk in the future though. Laws have been passed to ban lead in household paint, gasoline and water pipes. However, many older homes still have lead in them. Finding out if lead is a problem in your home is the first step in protecting your children's health. The questions on the next page can help.