Lead Poisoning Prevention Tips

Lead is a substance that is toxic to the developing neurological system. It contaminates our environment. Lead poisoning can occur at any age, though children under age 6 are at higher risk of lead poisoning because their bodies absorb it more easily. These children may not have any symptoms, but the long-term effects can include learning and behavior problems and hyperactivity. It’s important for pregnant women to have low lead levels, as women can transfer lead to the fetus.

The most common way for children to be exposed to lead is through ingestion; the most likely pathway is lead from dust on the floor, which gets on their hands and then in their mouths.  Breathing in lead is possible, for instance if paint stripping is done with a high heat paint stripper, some of the lead is vaporized and inhaled. Inhaling lead is more often a problem with adults than for children.

Soil & Homes Can Be Contaminated

Lead can be found in the following locations:

  • Lead-based paint is commonly found in homes built before 1978, particularly window components, doors/door frames and porches
  • Exposure to renovation can greatly increase exposure to lead if lead-safe techniques are not applied
  • Soil, particularly around building foundations, where chips of old, peeling, lead-based paint and lead dust from home remodeling/demolition projects are found
  • Tap water can have increased amounts of lead
  • Some products (pottery, jewelry, toys and other products) have been found to have high amounts of lead
  • Home remedies and ayurvedic creams and medicines have been found to contain high amounts of lead 
  • Clothes of someone who has worked with lead (for example, building repair or auto repair)

Tips to Protect Your Family

  • If you live in a home built before 1978, assume you have lead
  • Identify areas of your home that have lead-based paint or contamination – by using home test kits or having a certified inspector test for lead
  • Keep your floors and other areas of you house clean
  • Hire a licensed contractor for lead repairs 
  • Run cold water for five minutes before using the water to drink or cook, and save a pitcher of water in your refrigerator for drinking and cooking. For more information about lead in drinking water, go to the EPA Lead in Drinking Water website.
  • Wash your child’s hands before they eat or sleep, especially after they’ve come in from playing outside
  • Avoid having your children play in bare soil around building foundations, and under porches. For more information, read the brochure: Landscaping Techniques to Reduce Exposure to Lead Contaminated Soil.
  • Wash toys that have been outside
  • Shower and change your clothes after working with lead and wash those clothes separately
  • Maintain a healthy amount of  iron in your child’s diet, which helps the body absorb less lead​

Home Renovations

If you’re renovating your home and it was built before 1978, assume your building has lead.

  • Seal off the work area
  • Temporarily move your family and pets, especially children and pregnant women until the work is done and properly cleaned up
  • Have a dust test done to be sure cleaning has been sufficient; small dust particles are the most important and can only be detected with a wipe test
  • Follow lead safe work practices by reading the brochure: Reducing Lead Hazards When Remodeling Your Home

Testing Children for Lead Poisoning

Have your child’s blood tested for lead exposure at ages 1 and 2 years old and more often if you think your child has been exposed to lead via lead dust/chips, toys, soil, etc. It is recommended that children who live in high-risk areas​ (note: Chicago is a high-risk area) are screened for lead at ages 12 and 24 months in Illinois.

Talk with your doctor and get a blood test right away if you think your child has been exposed to lead. Do not wait for the child to look, feel or get sick.​

Descarga esta información en español del Illinois Poison Prevention Center: