At-Risk Populations

Two children playing at a table with crayons and paper

There are still many locations throughout the U.S. with significant numbers of children with lead exposure. The distribution of elevated blood lead levels in the U.S. children varies by geographic location. This is due mainly to the variability of sources of lead in the environment and of other risk factors, such as housing age and poverty, in different locations throughout the nation.

Children less than 6 years old are especially at risk 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.

Children living at or below the federal poverty level and those who live in older housing are at greatest risk. Children of some racial and ethnic groups, such as non-Hispanic African-Americans, are also at higher risk for exposure to lead.

Additionally, pregnant women, refugees, and children who were adopted from outside the U.S. are also at risk for higher lead exposure.

Finally, workers in certain industries, and their families, may be exposed to lead from the workplace.  It is particularly important for workers using lead to prevent take-home exposure to young children and pregnant women.  More information about adult lead exposure is available from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).