Children under the age of 6 are at greatest risk for health problems caused by lead exposure. The health effects of lead exposure are more harmful to younger children than older children and adults because their bodies are still developing, and they are growing so rapidly. Young children also tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths.
Children can be exposed to lead from many sources, including:
- Paint in homes built before 1978 that is deteriorating or chipping.
- Soil near older buildings, airports, or busy roads.
- Drinking water delivered through lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures.
- Consumer products, such as toys, jewelry, antiques, and collectible items.
- Certain foods, cosmetics, and traditional medicines imported from other countries.
- Jobs and hobbies that involve working with lead-based products and might cause parents or caregivers to bring lead into the home.
Though lead can be found in many places in a child’s environment, lead exposure is preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead by swallowing or breathing in lead or lead dust. Parents can take steps to make their homes more lead safe. For more information, refer to Lead Poisoning Prevention.
Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health and cause well-documented health effects, including damage to the brain and nervous system, slowed growth and development, learning and behavior problems, and hearing and speech problems. If your child may have been exposed to lead, talk to your child’s health care provider about getting a blood lead test.
Lead Poisoning Prevention – steps to stop children from coming into contact with lead.
Blood Lead Levels in Children – information on blood lead testing in children.
Sources of Lead – where lead can be found throughout a child’s environment.
Lead FAQs – frequently asked questions about childhood lead exposure.
5 Things You Can Do To Help Lower Your Child’s Lead Level pdf icon[PDF – 234 KB] – fact sheet with information on how to help lower blood lead levels, in English pdf icon[PDF – 234 KB]and en Español pdf icon[PDF – 166 KB].
A Healthy Home for Everyone: The Guide for Families and Individuals pdf icon[PDF – 3 MB] – booklet with information and action steps for creating a healthy and safe home.
Find a Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) in Your Regionexternal icon – information about protecting children from environmental hazards. Learn more with these videos in English and en Español.