Information for Parents and Caregivers on Preventing Childhood Lead Poisoning

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How can you protect your child from lead poisoning?

There are a number of simple steps you can take to protect your child from lead.

Fix peeling lead paint and make home repairs safely.

  • Keep children away from chipped or peeling paint.
  • Fix peeling paint and make home repairs safely. This includes sectioning off the work area with plastic sheeting and tape, and wet scraping or wet sanding to keep dust levels down. Before you start work, call your local health department to find out how to work safely using lead-safe home repair methods.
  • Children and pregnant women should stay away from repairs that disturb old paint, such as sanding and scraping. They should stay away until the area is cleaned using wet cleaning methods and a HEPA vacuum (not dry sweeping).

Wash dust off hands, toys, bottles, windows, and floors.

  • Wash your child's hands and face after play, before meals, and before bed.
  • Wash toys, stuffed animals, pacifiers, and bottles with soap and water often.
  • Mop floors often, and use damp paper towels to clean window wells and sills.

Be careful not to bring lead home on clothes, toys, or jewelry.

  • Lead is in some children's jewelry, toys, keys, and old furniture. Find out about Lead Hazard Product Recalls and other sources of lead. Sign-up for children's product recall alerts
  • Some jobs and hobbies involve contact with lead. These include: painting, plumbing, construction, car repair, or working with firearms, stained glass or pottery. To reduce lead dust, change work clothes before going home; take shoes off at your door; wash work or hobby clothes separately; wash face, hands and uncovered skin before going home.

Keep lead out of your food and tap water.

  • Let tap water run for one minute before using it, if it hasn't been run for a few hours. If you have a well, you still need to run your water because both town and well water could have lead from old plumbing.
  • Only use cold tap water for drinking, cooking, and making baby formula. Boiling your water does not get rid of lead.
  • Use lead-free dishes. Don't serve or store food in pewter, crystal, or cracked pottery.
  • Some spices, candy, cosmetics, and health remedies have been found to have lead.

Serve foods that have calcium, iron, and vitamin C. These foods help keep lead from being stored in your child's body.

  • Foods with calcium: milk, cheese, yogurt, tofu, and green, leafy vegetables.
  • Foods with iron: beans, lean meat, fortified cereal, and peanut butter.
  • Foods with vitamin C: oranges, orange juice, grapefruit, tomatoes, green peppers.
  • Fight Lead with a Healthy Diet (EPA)

Where can you find lead?

Lead is a metal that has been used in paint, plumbing, pottery, gasoline, and many other items. The most common source for childhood lead poisoning is dust or chips from old lead paint.

What is lead poisoning?

Lead is a metal that can harm children and adults when it gets into their bodies. Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing in lead. Lead is especially bad for young children whose brains are still developing. Lead can harm a child's growth, behavior, and ability to learn.

Lead can also harm babies before they're born. If you're planning to have a baby, it's important to protect yourself from lead now.

Why should all children have a blood lead test?

A child with lead poisoning usually does not look or feel sick. A blood lead test is the only way to know how much lead is in the body. New York State requires health care providers to test all children with a blood lead test at age 1 and again at age 2. Up to age 6, your doctor or nurse should ask you about ways your child may have had contact with lead. Children who have had contact with lead should be tested.

Why are young children at greatest risk?

Young children spend a lot of time on the floor. They like to put hands, toys, and other things in their mouths. This raises their chances of swallowing lead dust and paint chips. Also, a child's growing body more easily takes in lead than an adult's. Children are also at greater risk because their brains are growing quickly and lead can hurt the brain's growth. Even a small amount of lead can harm a young, growing child.

More Information and Resources for Parents and Caregivers

Find out more about lead. Talk with your doctor or nurse. You can also contact the Lead Poisoning Prevention Program in your local health department.

The materials and links below provide details on preventing childhood lead poisoning. They can be viewed or downloaded here, or free copies can be ordered using the Order Form.

Information for Refugees

Recalls due to lead in children's products and imported products

Lead-Safe Home Repair

Additional Lead Poisoning Prevention Materials