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Protect your family from lead

A little girl kisses a woman on the cheek

Do you live in an older home? If so, this is for you. 

Many older homes have lead-based paint. Exposure to this old paint—by breathing in or swallowing lead dust or eating paint chips—can pose serious health risks. Lead is a highly toxic metal.

Lead is even more dangerous to children than to adults, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even children who seem healthy can have harmful levels of lead in their bodies. Levels don’t have the be high in babies to affect them. Exposure can cause:

  • Behavior and learning problems (such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder).
  • Damage to the brain and nervous system.
  • Hearing problems.
  • Kidney damage.
  • Slowed growth.

A simple blood test can detect high levels of lead. Talk with your child's doctor to find out more.

In adults, high lead levels can increase the risk of:

  • Digestive problems.
  • High blood pressure.
  • Memory and concentration problems.
  • Muscle and joint pain.
  • Nerve disorders.
  • Reproductive and pregnancy problems.

Safety steps for around the home

It's especially important to get your home tested for lead if: 

  • It was built before 1978. 
  • It’s in poor condition.
  • You’re planning to remodel.

For a list of qualified professionals in your area, check with the National Lead Information Center.

The EPA also recommends these safety steps:

  • Don't try to remove lead-based paint yourself.
  • If you rent, notify your landlord of any peeling or chipping paint.
  • Clean floors, window frames, windowsills and other surfaces weekly. Thoroughly rinse sponges and mop heads after cleaning.
  • Wash children's hands often, especially before they eat or go to bed.
  • Keep play areas clean. Wash bottles, pacifiers, toys and stuffed animals regularly.
  • Keep children from chewing painted surfaces, such as windowsills.
  • Clean or remove shoes before entering your home to avoid tracking in lead from soil.
  • Serve children nutritious foods that are high in iron and calcium, such as spinach and dairy products. Children with good diets absorb less lead.
  • If you work with lead, shower and change clothes before going home. Launder your work clothes separately from the rest of the family's clothes.
  • If you're concerned about lead in your plumbing, call your local health department or water supplier and ask about testing your water. You cannot see, smell or taste lead, and boiling your water will not get rid of it. For more information, call the EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information Hotline at 800.426.4791.

Reviewed 1/26/2024

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