How Do Children Get Lead Poisoning?

The most common way that kids get lead poisoning is from lead-based paint. This type of paint was used in many U.S. homes until the late 1970s, when the government banned the manufacturing of paint containing lead.

Kids also can come into contact with lead through:

  • soil found near busy streets and around homes that were painted with lead-based paint
  • water that flows through old lead pipes or faucets
  • food stored in bowls glazed or painted with lead, or imported from countries that use lead to seal canned food
  • some toys, jewelry, hobby, and sports objects (like stained glass, ink, paint, and plaster)
  • some home remedies, such as greta and azarcon (used to treat an upset stomach)

How Can We Protect Our Family?

To help protect your kids from lead poisoning by:

  • Keep your home lead-free. Ask your local health department about having your home checked for lead sources.
  • Ask your doctor about having your kids tested for lead exposure. If a child has lead poisoning, all siblings should be tested.
  • Be wary of old plumbing that might be lined with lead. If you have an old plumbing system (in homes built before 1970), which used copper pipes and lead solder, you may want to get your water tested. Call your local health department or water department to find a laboratory that will test your water for lead content.
  • If the water from the cold faucet has not been run for several hours, let cold water run for 30 seconds before drinking it. And because hot water absorbs more lead than cold water, don’t use hot tap water for meals.
  • Wash your kids’ hands and toys often, and keep dusty surfaces clean with a wet cloth.
  • Make sure that iron and calcium are in your diets. If kids are exposed to lead, good nutrition can reduce the amount absorbed by their bodies. Eating regular meals is helpful because lead is absorbed more during periods of fasting.
  • Know where your kids play. Keep them away from busy roads and the underside of bridges.
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