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National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2013

Childhood Lead Exposure

Photo: A girl playing with toys.Young children often place their toys, fingers, and other objects in their mouth as part of their normal development. This hand-to-mouth activity may put them in contact with lead paint or dust.

The most common sources of lead exposure for children are chips and particles of old lead paint. Although children may be directly exposed to lead from paint by swallowing paint chips, they are more commonly exposed by swallowing house dust or soil contaminated by leaded paint. This happens because lead paint chips become ground into tiny bits that become part of the dust and soil in and around homes. This usually occurs when leaded paint becomes old or worn or is subject to constant rubbing (as on doors and windowsills and wells). In addition, lead can be scattered when paint is disturbed during destruction, remodeling, paint removal, or preparation of painted surfaces for repainting.

Lead, which is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell, may be found in other sources. These sources may be the exposure source for as many as 30% of lead-poisoned children in certain areas across the United States. They include

  • traditional home health remedies such as azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion in the Hispanic community
  • imported candies
  • imported toys and toy jewelry
  • imported cosmetics
  • pottery and ceramics
  • drinking water contaminated by lead leaching from lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, or valves and
  • consumer products, including tea kettles and vinyl miniblinds

Additionally, a variety of work and hobby activities and products expose adults to lead. This also can result in lead exposure for their families. Activities that are associated with lead exposure include indoor firing range use, home repairs and remodeling, and pottery making. "Take-home" exposures may result when people whose jobs expose them to lead wear their work clothes home or wash them with the family laundry. It also may result when they bring scrap or waste material home from work.

Protecting Children from Lead Exposure

Photo: A smiling infant.Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.

The goal is to prevent lead exposure to children before they are harmed. There are many ways parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. Lead hazards in a child's environment must be identified and controlled or removed safely.

Concern about Your Child's Exposure

If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to lead contact your health care provider. Your child's health care provider can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated blood lead level. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell if your child has an elevated lead level. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.

See frequently asked questions about lead and possible lead exposure.

For more information on sources of lead exposure and prevention tips, please visit our web page at or call the CDC-INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

About National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

October 20-26 is National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week. This year's theme is "Lead-Free Kids for a Healthy Future." Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease of young children. Approximately half a million U.S children ages 1-5 have blood lead levels above the reference value at which CDC recommends public health actions be initiated.

 Banner: National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, Oct. 20-26 - Get Your Home Tested, Get Your Child Tested, Get the Facts, 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) 

National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week occurs every year during the last full week in October (Senate. Resolution 199). During National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week, CDC aims to:

  • Raise awareness about lead poisoning;
  • Stress the importance of screening the highest risk children younger than 6 years of age (preferably by ages 1 and 2) if they have not been tested yet;
  • Highlight partner's efforts to prevent childhood lead poisoning; and
  • Urge people to take steps to reduce lead exposure.

Many states and communities offer free blood-lead testing and conduct various education and awareness events. For more information about NLPPW activities in your area, please contact your state or local health department.

Every year, CDC, in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), develops posters in observance of National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW). The posters are free for downloading by states and communities.

For 2013, we have developed a National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Campaign Toolkit to encourage information sharing, collaboration, and promotion of lead poisoning prevention activities. View the toolkit at

More Information

  • Page last reviewed: October 22, 2013
  • Page last updated: October 22, 2013
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