Lead exposure is a major public health concern. There is no safe blood lead level in children, and the lifetime effects of elevated lead levels are serious. Lead poisoning can lead to neurological problems, including learning difficulties and behavioral issues.
Unfortunately, young children often do not show signs of having high blood lead levels. For this reason, Medicaid requires all children covered under its programs to be tested for lead at both 12 and 24 months of age, and all children should be screened at regular intervals for lead exposure and tested if they have any risk factors.
Lead is commonly found in household dust in older homes, but even if your home is new, there are risks of lead exposure outside of the home. Parents can unknowingly bring lead home from work or any older building. Likewise, children can play or attend daycare in areas with lead dust.
Because of the dangers of lead poisoning, it’s a good idea to take steps to limit your child’s possible lead exposure outside the house. Here are few tips you can use to keep your family safe and lead-free:
- For parents who work in industries where lead is common, taking off shoes before entering the home and then showering and changing clothes before interacting with children is important.
- Ask your child’s daycare if the facility has been tested for lead paint and lead in the water; it’s also a good idea to be aware of possible lead contamination in older homes your child might visit.
- Avoid folk remedies as they can be contaminated with lead.
- Avoid older cookware unless it’s clearly labeled as lead-free. Imported cookware can also contain lead.
- Avoid candies imported from Mexico.
- If you live in an area where lead is common, remove shoes before entering your home every time. Lead is found in the dust on the ground and can be tracked into the home.
- Avoid letting your child play in the dirt around older homes and playgrounds as old paint chips and dust mix with soil.
- Upon returning home, wash the hands of all children and adults to remove any dust that was encountered when out of the home.
- Wash all toys regularly to remove dust.
- Eliminate recalled toys and jewelry because lead can also be found in certain plastics. A recall list can be found here: https://www.cpsc.gov.
- Use only cold water to prepare meals and formula, especially in any older houses. Let the water run for at least a minute to flush out any debris that accumulated since the last use.
Reviewed by Sara Connolly, March 2020
- Lead is extremely common in the environment.
- Take off shoes before entering the house if you work in a lead-rich industry or environment.
- Make sure your child doesn’t visit buildings that are contaminated.
- Avoid folk remedies, older cookware, and candy from Mexico.
- Wash your home regularly to remove contaminated dust.