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Protect Your Family From Lead in Your Home

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2003
17 pages
This document discusses the effects of lead exposure in children.
Childhood lead poisoning remains a major environmental health problem in the United States. Many houses and apartments built before 1978 have paint that contains high levels of lead. Lead from paint, chips, and dust can pose serious health hazards if not taken care of properly. Lead exposure can harm young children and babies even before they are born. Even children that seem healthy can have high levels of lead in their bodies. In children, lead can cause nervous system and kidney damage, learning disabilities, behavior problems, poor muscle coordination, decreased muscle and bone growth, and hearing damage. In adults, lead can cause increased chance of illness during pregnancy, harm to a fetus, fertility problems, high blood pressure, digestive problems, nerve disorders, memory and concentration problems, and muscle and joint pain. People can get lead in their bodies by breathing or swallowing lead dust, or by eating soil or paint chips containing lead. People have many options for reducing lead hazards. In most cases, lead-based paint that is in good condition is not a hazard. Removing lead-based paint improperly can increase the danger to families. Young children must be tested for lead, even if they seem healthy. Children’s hands, bottles, pacifiers, and toys should be washed often. Children must eat healthy, low-fat foods. The home must be checked for lead hazards. Floors, window sills, and other surfaces must be cleaned regularly. Soil should be wiped off shoes before entering the house. Surfaces with peeling or chipping paint should be fixed. Precautions should be taken to avoid exposure to lead dust when remodeling or renovating. Belt-sanders, propane torches, high temperature heat guns, scrapers, and sandpaper should not be used on painted surfaces that may contain lead. Lead-based paint should be removed by experts.