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Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention

Lead is a naturally occurring toxic metal which can cause serious health problems. Exposure to lead can happen by:

  • swallowing lead chips
  • eating or drinking contaminated food or water
  • breathing in lead dust

What You Need to Know About Blood Lead Levels

The amount of lead in blood is referred to as the blood lead level, which is measured in micrograms of lead per deciliter of blood (μg/dL).

New Georgia legislation lowers the threshold for confirmed lead poisoning from 20 to 3.5 micrograms of lead per deciliter. The level is now consistent with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Health Effects of Lead Exposure

Even low levels of lead in blood can cause developmental delays, difficulty learning, behavioral issues, and neurological damage. The effects of lead poisoning can be permanent and disabling.

Where Children Are Exposed

Children can be exposed to lead almost anywhere. Lead exposure can happen from the following:

  • Paint that is chipping or peeling in homes or buildings built before 1978
  • Water that comes from lead pipes
  • Soil near highways, airports and factories
  • Certain imported spices, candies and traditional medicines
  • Some imported toys and jewelry
  • Lead dust

*Children under 6 years old are more likely to be exposed to lead dust due to their hand-to-mouth behavior and it is easily absorbed in their developing nervous system.

Risk Factors

Some children are at a higher risk for lead exposure from paint, water, soil, some imported items such as traditional medicines and certain spices, industrial sources, and some toys and jewelry. More information can be found here.

Testing for Lead Exposure

Getting a blood lead test is the best way to determine if a child has been exposed to lead. Parents can talk to their healthcare provider to find out if a blood lead test is needed.

To find out if a home has lead, hire a certified lead inspector to test for lead. Visit the Environmental Protection Agency’s Locate Certified Inspection, Risk Assessment, and Abatement Firms  to find one. Renters can ask their landlord to have the home inspected or to share results of recently conducted lead inspections.

Lead Exposure Prevention

CDC supports primary and secondary lead exposure prevention:

  • Primary prevention is the removal of lead hazards from the environment before a child is exposed. It is the most effective way to ensure that children do not experience harmful long-term effects of lead exposure.
  • Secondary prevention includes blood lead testing and follow-up care and referral. It remains an essential safety net for children who may already be exposed to lead.

For more information, visit: https://www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead/default.htm