Young children often place their toys, finger and other objects in their mouth as part of their normal development. This hand-to-mouth activity may put them in contact with lead paint or dust.
The most common sources of lead exposure for children are chips and particles of old lead paint. Although children may be directly exposed to lead from paint by swallowing paint chips, they are more commonly exposed by swallowing house dust or soil contaminated by leaded paint. This happens because lead paint chips become ground into tiny bits that become part of the dust and soil in and around homes. This usually occurs when leaded paint becomes old or worn or is subject to constant rubbing (as on doors and windowsills and wells). In addition, lead can be scattered when paint is disturbed during destruction, remodeling, paint removal or preparation of painted surfaces for repainting.
Lead, which is invisible to the naked eye and has no smell, may be found in other sources. These sources may be the exposure source for as many as 30 percent of lead-poisoned children in certain areas across the United States. They include:
* Traditional home health remedies such as azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion in the Hispanic community;
* Imported candies;
* Imported toys and toy jewelry;
* Imported cosmetics;
* Pottery and ceramics;
* Drinking water contaminated by lead leaching from lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures or valves and
* Consumer products, including tea kettles and vinyl miniblinds.
Additionally, a variety of work and hobby activities and products expose adults to lead. This also can result in lead exposure for their families. Activities that are associated with lead exposure include indoor firing range use, home repairs and remodeling and pottery making. "Take-home" exposures may result when people whose jobs expose them to lead wear their work clothes home or wash them with the family laundry. It also may result when they bring scrap or waste material home from work.
Lead poisoning is entirely preventable. The key is stopping children from coming into contact with lead and treating children who have been poisoned by lead.
If you have any reason to suspect that your child has been exposed to lead, contact your health care provider. Your child's health care provider can help you decide whether to perform a blood test to see if your child has an elevated blood lead level. A blood lead test is the only way you can tell if your child has an elevated lead level. Most children with elevated blood lead levels have no symptoms. The health care provider can recommend treatment if your child has been exposed to lead.
For more information on sources of lead exposure and prevention tips, please visit our website at www.cdc.gov/nceh/lead or call the CDC 800-232-4636.