Protecting Your Children From Lead Poisoning

It could be from the paint on their toys, or from chipping paint in their bedrooms. It can come from soil or even drinking water. Learn how to keep your children safe from the dangers of lead poisoning.

Toys made in other countries are being recalled due to the risk of lead poisoning, but check your toy box. Antique toys or toys passed down through the family could also contain lead. So as you're combing the toy bin for recalled products, take time to check the hand-me-downs, too.

How can I check my kid's toys for lead?
Lead may be used in paint or plastic used to make toys, but you can't see or smell it. Only a certified laboratory can accurately test a toy for lead. Do-it-yourself lead testing kits don't show how much lead is present and may not detect smaller amounts of lead. If you have any doubts about the toy, remove it immediately. Check the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Web site at or call 1-800-638-2772 for information on what toys have been recalled.

How does lead get into a child's body?
Kids put things in their mouths. Toys are no exception. Your child can get lead in his or her body by:

  • Putting objects or hands covered with lead paint or lead dust in the mouth
  • Eating paint chips or soil containing lead
  • Breathing in lead dust, which can be stirred up when renovations are made to lead-painted areas

Though recalled toys are the most recent concern, there are other environmental sources of lead exposure in children. These include:

  • Dust and paint chips from old paint (used in many homes before 1978, when it was banned by the government). Peeling or chipping paint is the main culprit.
  • Soil that has lead in it.
  • Drinking water that comes from lead pipes.
  • Dust that may be on clothing worn by people who work with lead.
  • Hobby materials that have lead in them.
  • Food kept in some ceramic dishes (especially if made in another country).

What problems can lead poisoning cause in your child?
Lead poisoning affects almost every system in the body. The effects are most dangerous in children under age 6 because their brains and nervous systems are still developing. A child with too much lead may not show symptoms at first, but at school age may develop:

  • Learning and behavior problems
  • Hearing problems
  • Kidney problems
  • Anemia (a blood disorder)
  • Growth problems
  • Seizures, coma and even death (at very high levels)

Tips for Reducing Your Child's Risk of Lead Poisoning
Everyone has some lead in his or her body, but it's not clear just how much is too much. To be on the safe side, reduce your child's exposure to lead as much as possible.

  • Get your home inspected for lead (especially if it was built before 1978). Have professionals make any necessary repairs. Call the National Lead Information Center at 800-424-LEAD (5323) to find certified lead inspectors and lead "abatement" contractors in your area. Removing lead-based paint can release lead dust into the air if not done properly.
  • Make sure your children wash their hands often. Wash their toys often, too.
  • Regularly wet-mop floors and wet-wipe windowsills.
  • Don't let your children play in bare soil. Remove shoes before entering the house to keep contaminated soil out of the home.
  • Shower and change clothes after working with lead-based products.
  • Get your water tested for lead. It is the only way to tell if it is safe. Call your local health department or the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Hotline (1-800-426-4791) to find out how to test.
  • Make sure your child eats a well-balanced diet with foods high in calcium and iron. These help reduce the amount of lead the body absorbs.

You can prevent your child from getting lead poisoning. Take steps now to help keep your child safe from this hidden enemy. If you are concerned that your child may have been exposed to lead, have his or her blood tested for lead levels. There is no safe level of lead in the blood.



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