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National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2014

Young boyLead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead. Learn more about preventing childhood lead exposure.

Childhood Lead Exposure

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.

Prevent childhood lead poisoning. Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child's health. Damage to the brain and nervous system. Slowed growth and development. Learning and behavior problems. Hearing and speech problems. This can cause lower IQ, decreased ability to pay attention and underperformance at school.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child's health.

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 can also 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 may also result when they bring scrap or waste material home from work.

The impact of lead poisoning: 535,000 U.S. children ages 1 to 5 years have blood lead levels high enough to damage their health. Twenty-four million homes in the U.S. contain deteriorated lead-based paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust. Four million of these are home to young children. It can cost $5,600 in medical and special education costs for each seriously lead-poisoned child.

Childhood lead poisoning is considered the most preventable environmental disease of young children.

Lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Take these steps to make your home lead-safe. Talk with your child's doctor about a simple blood lead test. If you are pregnant or nursing, talk with your doctor about exposure to sources of lead. Talk with your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead if you live in a home built before 1978. Remove safely. Common renovation activities (like sanding, cutting, replacing windows, and more) can create hazardous lead dust. If you're planning renovations, use contractors certified by the Environmental Protection Agency (visit www.epa.gov/lead for more information). Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from chidlren and discard as appropriate. Stay up-to-date on current recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission's website at cpsc.gov. Visit cdc.gov/nceh/lead to learn more.

Lead poisoning is 100% preventable.

Protecting Children from Lead Exposure

Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead.

There are many ways parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead before they are harmed. 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 or call the CDC-INFO at 1-800-CDC-INFO (232-4636).

About National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week

October 19-25 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.

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 partners' 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 National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 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 a National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Campaign Toolkit to encourage information sharing, collaboration, and promotion of lead poisoning prevention activities. View the toolkit.

Banner: National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week is Oct. 19-25. Get your home tested. Get your child tested. Get the facts. Call 1-800-424-LEAD or visit leadfreekids.org.

  • Page last reviewed: October 20, 2014
  • Page last updated: October 20, 2014
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