Lead Free Kids: National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2015

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National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week badge
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week badge

Sam and Louisa Carmichael had their first child just one month ago, and now they have bought their first home–a 1910 Craftsman bungalow. They want to do some renovation before moving in, but they know that older homes often contain lead paint and that lead exposure is harmful to children. Although the sellers made no disclosures about lead paint and the inspection revealed no issues, they still want to be sure the home is safe for their baby.

So the Andersons do some research and find “Renovation, Repair and Painting Program: Do-It-Yourselfers” on the Environmental Protection Agency website. There they learn that even if old paint is covered by layers of newer paint, stripping or sanding the surface could release hazardous lead dust. They are not going to take any chances with their baby’s health.

Facts about lead exposure

  • Houses built before lead-based paints were banned in 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint.
  • About 24 million homes in the U.S. contain deteriorated lead-based paint and elevated levels of lead-contaminated house dust.
  • About 4 million homes with elevated lead levels are home to young children.
  • An estimated 535,000 U.S. children ages 1-5 years have blood lead levels known to damage health.
  • For each seriously lead-poisoned child, medical and special education costs average over $5,600.

Other sources of lead exposure

Besides peeling and cracking lead paint and dust, children can come into contact with lead in other ways. Some water pipes contain lead, as well as some toys and toy jewelry, imported candy, and traditional home remedies. In addition, adults who work in occupations involving lead, such as mining or manufacturing, may accidentally bring lead into their homes from products they use at work. Some hobbies, like making stained glass, also use lead.

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health
Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health

Dangers to children’s health from lead exposure

Exposure to lead can seriously harm a child’s health. Children can swallow lead or they can breathe lead in household dust, frequently during home renovation and repair. Even at low levels, lead exposure can cause damage to the brain and nervous system, slowing growth and development and lowering IQ. It can lead to problems with hearing and speech, behavior, paying attention and learning.
The great news is that lead poisoning is 100% preventable. Follow these steps to make your home lead-safe:

  • Talk to your child’s doctor about a simple blood lead test.
  • Talk to your local health department about testing paint and dust in your home for lead if you live in a home built before 1978.
  • If you see paint chips or dust in windowsills or on floors because of peeling paint, clean these areas regularly with a wet mop.
  • Renovate safely. Sanding, cutting, replacing windows and other common renovation activities can create hazardous lead dust. To ensure lead-safe renovation, use contractors certified by EPA.
  • Remove recalled toys and toy jewelry from children. Stay up-to-date on current toy and toy jewelry recalls by visiting the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s webpage.

Sam and Louisa decide to hire a certified lead renovation, repair and painting (RRP) contractor to remove any lead hazards from their home. RPPs are trained to reduce the chance of lead contamination by minimizing dust and cleaning thoroughly—and they can do the painting, too! The Carmichaels know they can cut back on renovation costs elsewhere. What is most important is giving their new baby a clean, safe, lead-free home.


CDC’s National Lead Poisoning Prevention Program
Learn How to Prevent Childhood Lead Exposure
National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week Toolkit
EPA Lead Webpage

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One comment on “Lead Free Kids: National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week 2015”

Comments listed below are posted by individuals not associated with CDC, unless otherwise stated. These comments do not represent the official views of CDC, and CDC does not guarantee that any information posted by individuals on this site is correct, and disclaims any liability for any loss or damage resulting from reliance on any such information. Read more about our comment policy ».

    This is excellent information, I had not known about the dangers of lead paint for children. Or rather, I realised that lead is dangerous but I did not realise how widespread the problem is and the effects of simple paint on children’s development. I was looking further into the issue and found this article that gives some practical tips on how to clean up or remove paint that could contain lead https://www.health.ny.gov/publications/2502/

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Page last reviewed: October 26, 2015
Page last updated: October 26, 2015