Lead is more dangerous to children than adults because a child's growing
body absorb's more lead, and their nervous systems and brains are more sensitive
to lead's damaging effects. Babies and young children put most everything
in their mouths, and these objects may have lead dust on them.
Lead-based paint in older homes or other facilities is the main source of
lead exposures for U.S. children. The EPA banned lead from paint in 1978.
Lead-based paint most likely will be present in your home if it was constructed
or renovated before 1978, especially if it was built before 1950.
Lead in drinking water
High levels of lead in drinking water are a significant source of lead exposure
for children. Lead levels are likely to be high if your home has any of the
Even if you are hooked up to a city or town water supply, which treats drinking
water for contaminants, lead still can enter your drinking water through your
home's own plumbing.
- lead pipes
- copper pipes with lead solder (material used to join pipes)
- brass faucets or fittings
Lead levels in water pipes decrease as the building ages. Over time, mineral
deposits coat the inside of the pipes, which insulates the water from the
solder. During the first several years after construction, before this coating
forms, water is in direct contact with the lead in the solder. This coating
may form more rapidly if you have hard water.
Homes that are very old also are at high risk for lead-contaminated drinking
water. Copper pipes have replaced lead pipes in most plumbing; however, the
use of lead solder to connect the pipes is widespread. In fact, experts regard
lead solder as the major cause of contamination to drinking water.
The long-term health effects of lead in children can be severe, and even
result in death. Even small amounts can impact a child's health development.
Research has shown that childhood exposure to unsafe lead levels can cause
learning disabilities, decreased growth, hyperactivity, dizziness, clumsiness,
impaired hearing, brain damage, paralysis, and convulsions. In pregnant women,
lead exposure can pass through the body to the unborn child, resulting in
miscarriage or birth defects.
It is recommended that you use a licensed contractor for other lead-based
paint activities because of the dangers of lead-based paint. Licensed lead-abatement
contractors have been trained in proper lead removal.
During renovations, repair, or cleaning activities, you must protect
your children. Children must be protected from lead dust, lead paint chips
and lead contaminated soil. It is best to perform any alterations or renovations
without children present. Children and pregnant women are especially at risk
if exposed to unsafe levels of airborne lead dust.
- Test at-risk children. At-risk children are those who:
- live in low-income communities
- live or play in older housing (pre-1978), especially if the home is
in poor condition or undergoing renovation
- have brothers, sisters, or playmates with high lead levels
- live with someone who is exposed to lead in the workplace or who has
a hobby that uses lead (stained glass, pottery, etc.)
- live near an industry that releases lead into the environment.
- have had a previous high lead blood level test positive.
Encourage parents of children who may have been exposed to lead to get
their children tested by their doctor, health center, or local health
department. A simple blood test can detect high lead levels.
These tests are inexpensive and sometimes free. Blood tests for lead
are especially important for children six months to six years of age.
Treatment can range from changes in diet, to medication, or even a hospital
stay in more severe cases.
- Leave lead-based paint undisturbed if it is in good condition.
DO NOT SCRAPE, SAND, OR BURN lead-based paint.
It is recommended that a licensed contractor perform all lead-based paint
removal activities if your goal is permanent removal.
- Cover lead-based paint. If you are not removing lead-based paint
permanently, enclose the undisturbed lead-based paint with water-based paint
and or wall paper. Covering high-friction areas, such as window sills, window
frames, and door frames, will not prevent lead dust from beign emitted from
underneath the lead-based paint.
- Contact your landlord. If you rent, notify your landlord of peeling
or chipping paint.
- Discard paint chips safely. Clean up lead-based paint chips immediately
with wet paper towels. When the paint chips or dust are wet,
they will not emit lead dust. Discard in double-layered
heavy duty trash bags. Seal bags tightly. Discard with your normal
- Dust with wet rags or mops. Clean window frames, window sills,
and other surfaces that create friction when opened with wet rags or mops
as often as necessary to pick up small chips or dust. Also clean the floor,
rug, or carpet around these friction areas. Use a mop or sponge with warm
water and a high phosphate cleaner. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads
with dish soap or an all purpose cleaner after each cleaning.
- Wet clean carpets annually. Wet cleaning carpets where lead dust
may accumulate will reduce children's exposure to lead paint dust. Make
sure the carpeting dries thoroughly to prevent mold, which can cause asthma
or irritate allergies.
- Wash hands.Children put just about anything in their mouths, including
soil or paint chips. In homes that are at risk for lead contamination, wash
children's hands often, especially before they eat, and before nap time
and bed time. Prevent children from chewing or sucking on window sills,
banisters, or other painted surfaces.
- Use low-odor, water-based paints. The paint should be dry and vapor
smells nondetectable before children re-enter newly painted rooms.
- Clean toys. Keep play areas clean. Sanitize bottles, pacifiers,
toys, and stuffed animals regularly in warm soapy water. Rinse.
- Use a door mat and wipe your shoes. Clean or remove shoes before
entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from potentially contaminated
soil. Wash the door mat regularly (do not shake it out where children play!)
to help keep contaminants out of your home.
- Check your mini-blinds. If you have mini-blinds, contact the manufacturer
to ensure your blinds are lead free. Replace mini-blinds that contain lead.
Dust mini-blinds with a wet cloth if they contain lead or if you
are not sure if they contain lead.
- Eat healthy. Make sure children eat nutritious, low-fat foods that
are high in iron and calcium. Examples include: spinach, low-fat dairy products,
beans and lean meats, such as pork. Children with healthy diets will absorb
You should CONSIDER:
Other Potential Lead Sources:
- Getting a Lead Risk assessment. Have your home and soil checked
for lead hazards through a lead risk assessment. This assessment will include
taking a dust wipe, peeling paint and soil sample.
- Flush your pipes before drinking or cooking. Whenever a faucet
has not been used for six or more hours, "flush" the cold water pipes by
running the water at least 30 seconds or until it becomes as cold as it
will get. This could take as little as five to 30 seconds if there has been
recent heavy water use, such as showering or toilet flushing. The more time
the water has been in contact with pipes or fixtures containing lead, the
more lead it may contain.
- Use cold water for drinking or food preparation. Use water from
the cold water tap only for drinking, cooking, and especially for making
infant formula. If you need hot water, draw water from the cold water tap
then heat it. Hot water can contain higher lead levels because lead dissolves
more quickly in hot water.
- Get your water tested. The only way to be sure of the amount of
lead in your water is to have it tested.
- Contacting your utility. Lincoln Water System produces and distributes
an annual report on water quality.
Glazed pottery - Use glazed pottery only for display and keep out
of children's reach, if you do not know whether it contains lead.
Leaded gasoline fumes - Leaded gasoline fumes may have deposited
lead in the soil before 1978, when leaded gasoline was banned.
On the job - Parents who work or have hobbies involving lead, should
change clothes and remove shoes before entering the home. Work clothes should
be washed separately from children's laundry.
Food cans - Never store food in open cans. Keep it in glass, plastic,
or stainless steel containers. The lead solder used to seal food cans can
mix with food in the can. The United States banned the use of lead solder
in cans in 1995, but still is used in other countries. Lead solder may be
found in cans imported into the United States.
Children's Environmental Health