What is lead?
Lead is a toxic heavy metal that can cause serious health problems particularly in young children and pregnant women.
Why is lead a problem?
Exposure to lead is especially a problem for young children because it can:
- slow your child’s growth.
- cause behaviour problems in your child.
- affect your child’s ability to learn.
- cause hearing and speech problems.
At high levels, lead exposure may cause problems with the kidneys and the development of red blood cells, and may lead to seizures and death.
However, most children have no symptoms when they are exposed to lead.
How can my child be exposed to lead?
There are many ways a child can be exposed to lead.
- Lead paint - Houses built before 1978 may contain lead paint. When a child eats chipping or peeling paint, they become exposed to lead.
- Lead dust – When lead paint deteriorates it can turn into a fine dust, which can be ingested by a child.
- Soil - When exterior lead-based paint from houses or buildings flakes or peels, it can contaminate soil. The past use of leaded gasoline in cars, industrial sources, and even contaminated sites can impact soil.
- Water - Lead can enter drinking water through corrosion of plumbing materials, especially where the water has high acidity or low mineral content that corrodes pipes and fixtures.
- Pottery and ceramics – Pottery, especially from Latin America, may contain lead. DO NOT cook, store or serve food in pottery purchased from another country.
- Imported herbal medicines - traditional or folk medicines from the Middle East, Latin America, China and India.
- Spices from Latin America, India, Pakistan and Eastern Europe have been found to contain lead.
- Toys, jewelry and candy from China and Latin America have been found to contain lead. Learn about recent recalls here.
How do I know if my child has been exposed to lead?
You can find out if your child has been exposed to lead by having a simple blood test done by your child’s medical provider.
- All children in New York State MUST have a lead test at ages 1 and 2.
- You can check with your child’s medical provider to see if your child has been tested for lead.
- If you think your child may have been exposed to lead, contact you child’s medical provider and request a lead test.
- Pregnant women shold also be assessed for lead exposure by their prenatal health care provider because lead exposure can cause miscarriage or low birth weight.
How can I reduce my child’s risk of lead exposure?
Lead Poisoning is 100% preventable. You can reduce the risk of your child becoming exposed by:
- Keeping your home clean and dust free by picking up any paint chips you see and by wet mopping and cleaning with soapy/detergent water regularly.
- Wash your child’s hands frequently, particularly before meals and snacks. Young children normally put their hands in their mouths.
- Encourage your child to eat a diet that is high in calcium and iron.
- If you have old plumbing, run the cold water 1-3 minutes in the morning before using it.
- Use cold water for cooking, making baby formula and mixing drinks.
For more information:
- Protecting Your Baby from Lead (English) (Español)
- Keeping Your Family Safe from Lead (English & Español)
- Lead in Ceramic Pottery (English) (Español)
- Lead Paint
- Learn about Lead: What is lead, Protect your family, and Renovate right (US EPA)
- Information for Parents: Prevent Children's Exposure to Lead (CDC)
- Lead Poisoning Prevention (NYCDOH)