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What Parents and Caregivers Need to Know About Lead



Lead can be all around us, but we can't see it. Lead exposure can affect brain development in babies and children under age 6 and cause a lifetime of health problems. 


Keeping kids safe from lead sources is key to prevention. Testing is key to treatment


Know the Risks and How to Prevent and Avoid Exposure

Why are children under 6 at risk? 

Children under 6 are growing rapidly and act in ways that increase the risk of exposure to lead sources: 

  • they put things in their mouths
  • they play in the dirt
  • they like to pull and peel away at materials
  • they explore their environments through touch

They are also more susceptible to lead poisoning health effects. There is no safe blood lead level in children. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, delay development, cause behavioral problems, and cause other serious health effects. 

Lead has no smell and is difficult to identify. Most children that have lead poisoning do not demonstrate any obvious symptoms. 


If you think there's potential exposure to lead, ask your child's doctor for a blood test. 



What are the sources of lead poisoning?

The first line of protection against lead poisoning is to identify the sources and then control or remove them from the child's environment. Hazardous sources to watch for: 

  • Lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978 and that paint becomes especially dangerous when it starts to chip. With renovations or construction, additional lead dust may end up circulating in the air of the home. Also, lead paint is still used in industrial settings, which can be brought home from work due to dust lingering on the clothing of an adult. 
  • Lead water pipes contaminate water in older homes and apartment buildings.
  • Contaminated soil where children play. This can be near industrial and construction sites and near highways. 
  • Many other sources such as leaded gasoline, solder, imported items like pottery, spices and make-up, old toys, and exposure through adult occupations or hobbies.



Click here for information about sources that may contain lead.



If I Can't See it How Can I Prevent It?

STEP 1: Look around your home: 

  • Are there items in the home that may contain lead like chipping paint, dust and old toys?
  • Is your water source safe? How old are the pipes in the home?                                                          
  • Do you work in a place with high levels of lead that may come home on clothing and shoes? Construction or industrial jobs can have higher lead levels. 
  • Are your hobbies bringing lead home, like fishing lures, lead hunting bullets, furniture refinishing products or paint? 
  • Are imported products such as glazed pottery, candies, spices or make-up in reach of your children? 

STEP 2: Maintain a regular cleaning regimen to keep lead away. 

  • Wash those hands. Have kids wash their hands before meals and bedtime, especially after outdoor play. Outdoor toys also need to be washed regularly. 
  • Bust the dust. Floors, furniture and windowsills that can gather dust should be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth or mop. 
  • No shoes. Take off shoes before entering the home. This will help keep lead-based soil outside. 
  • Purge the pipes. Running cold water for at least a minute before using water from older plumbing can help clear lead debris. Avoid using hot tap water for cooking or heating baby formula. Boil or heat cold water instead. 
  • Get out of the dirt. Avoid play in bare soil as much as possible. Plant grass or cover with mulch. A sandbox that can be covered when not in use is also a great play option. 
  • Regular fixes.  If you know your home has lead-based paint, fix any peeling paint and remove paint chips. Avoid sanding which creates leaded dust particles. 


 Click here for our prevention flyer.



 If you think there's potential exposure to lead, ask your child's doctor for a blood test. 

Nutrition as Prevention

Did you know what we eat can actually help lower lead absorption? Look for these foods high in calcium, vitamin C and iron

Calcium and Vitamin D:                   

  • Milk 
  • Yogurt
  • Cheese

Protein, Iron and Zinc

  • Steak, fish and eggs
  • Nuts and beans
  • Soy and tofu

Vitamin C

  • Oranges 
  • Strawberries
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes

                                                                  Click here for additional nutrition information



If you think there's potential exposure to lead, ask your child's doctor for a blood test.


How Do You Know if Your Child Has Been Exposed to Lead or Has Lead Poisoning?

The signs and symptoms of lead poisoning are not obvious right away.

Lead can:

  • Affect IQ
  • Cause Behavioral Issues
  • Delay Development

Signs and symptoms may include: 

  • Headache
  • Lack of appetite
  • Vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Anemia
  • Stomach ache
  • Constipation
  • Seizures

If you are worried, don't wait to get the test. 

A simple blood test is the most accurate way to test for lead exposure. If you suspect exposure, ask your child's healthcare provider for the blood test. Don't wait for them to suggest or ask you about this. 

What's the difference between lead screening and lead testing?

A screen is when a healthcare professional asks questions about the environment where the child lives and plays, as well as other factors affecting potential exposure to lead, such as your hobbies, age of the home and your work place. A lead test is a blood test where a small amount of blood is drawn to test for traces of lead. 

How much does a blood lead test cost? 

This depends upon the child's health insurance. Medicaid will cover (and requires) blood lead test for children at 12 and 24 months of age. Ask your insurance provider about coverage for your child. 

Kansas children continue to be at risk for lead poisoning. The good news is that lead poisoning can be prevented. The only way to know if a child has lead poisoning is to have them tested. There is no safe blood lead level for children. 

The Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988 authorized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to initiate program efforts to eliminate childhood lead poisoning in the United States. The Kansas Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is funded through a cooperative agreement between the CDC and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. 


Additional Reports and Resources on Lead
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