Populations at Higher Risk

Two children playing at a table with crayons and paper

In many places across the United States, significant numbers of children are still exposed to lead. This is due mainly to the different sources of lead in the environment and other risk factors. For example, older houses and houses in low-income areas are more likely to contain lead-based paint and lead pipes, faucets, and plumbing fixtures.

Children who live in households at or below the federal poverty level and those who live in housing built before 1978 are at the greatest risk of lead exposure.  Also, communities of color are at a higher risk of lead exposure because they may not have access to safe, affordable housing or face discrimination when trying to find a safe, healthy place to live. This is called housing inequity, and it puts some children, such as non-Hispanic Black persons, at a greater risk of exposure to lead.

Children less than six years old are at a higher risk of lead exposure because their bodies are still developing, and they are growing so rapidly. Young children also tend to put their hands, or other objects, that may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths.

Additionally, as lead can pass from a mother to her unborn baby, women who are pregnant are also at a greater risk for lead exposure. As some other countries have less stringent regulations to protect children from lead exposure, children who are immigrants, refugees, or recently adopted from outside of the United States are also at risk for higher lead exposure.

Finally, adults who work in certain industries may be exposed to lead in the workplace and can unknowingly bring it home and expose their families to lead. For example, a parent who works in construction areas that contain lead-based paint could bring home lead dust on their work clothes. It is very important that adults who use lead in their workplace  take precautions to prevent take-home lead exposure to young children and pregnant women at home. More information about workplace safety and lead and adult lead exposure is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).