Lead Poisoning Prevention

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Track Childhood Lead Poisoning
View information on childhood lead poisoning.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing in lead.

Lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies. There are many sources of lead. Lead can be found in dust, air, water, soil, and in some products used in and around our homes.

Lead can harm a young child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn. Children under six years old are more likely to get lead poisoning than any other age group. Most often, children get lead poisoning from breathing in or swallowing dust from old lead paint that gets on floors and windowsills, hands and toys. Lead can also be passed from mother to baby during pregnancy.

Although lead poisoning is preventable, lead continues to be a major cause of poisoning among children. Thousands of children are still at risk. Find out how you can protect the children in your life.

Adults can also get lead poisoning, especially through contact with lead in certain jobs or hobbies or when disturbing lead paint through renovation or remodeling activities.

How can you know if a person has lead poisoning?

The most common test for lead is a blood test. It measures how much lead is in your bloodstream. A person with lead poisoning usually does not look or feel sick.

Because children continue to be at risk, New York State requires health care providers to test all children for lead with a blood lead test at age 1 year and again at age 2 years. At every well-child visit up to age six, health care providers must ask parents about any contact their child might have had with lead. If there's been a chance of contact, providers are required to test for lead again. Parents can ask their child's doctor or nurse if their child should get a lead test, and what the lead test results mean.

What is New York State doing to end childhood lead poisoning?

Great progress has been made, but lead is still a threat to many children. The Department of Health has strong programs, plans and laws working to prevent childhood lead poisoning statewide. These programs also help those children who have lead poisoning. The Advisory Council on Lead Poisoning Prevention provides guidance to the Department of Health concerning development of these programs, plans, and laws.

In June, 2009, Governor Paterson issued Executive Order No. 21 to establish the Governor's Task Force on the Prevention of Childhood Lead Poisoning. The Task Force is composed of state agency representatives. Its purpose is to reduce childhood lead poisoning through increased inter-agency collaboration and coordination.