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Susan Sutherland

740-203-2082

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FAQ

How are children exposed to lead?

Lead-based paint and lead contaminated dust are the most hazardous sources of lead for U.S. children. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. All houses built before 1978 are likely to contain some lead-based paint. However, it is the deterioration of this paint that causes a problem.

 

Who is at risk?

Everyone is at risk of being poisoned by lead. Lead is particularly dangerous to children because their growing bodies absorb more lead than adults do and their brains and nervous systems are more sensitive to the damaging effects of lead. Babies and young children can also be more highly exposed to lead because they often put their hands and other objects that can have lead from dust or soil on them into their mouths. Children may also be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead, inhaling lead dust from lead-based paint or lead-contaminated soil or from playing with toys with lead paint.
 
Adults can be exposed to lead by eating and drinking food or water containing lead or from dishes or glasses that contain lead. They may also breath lead dust by spending time in areas where lead-based paint is deteriorating, and during renovation or repair work that disturbs painted surfaces in older homes and buildings. Working in a job or engaging in hobbies where lead is used, such as making stained glass, can increase exposure as can certain folk remedies containing lead. A pregnant woman’s exposure to lead from these sources is of particular concern because it can result in exposure to her developing baby.
 
The most important step parents, doctors and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs. 

 

What do I do if I think my child or I have been exposed to lead?

Talk to your pediatrician, general physician, or Delaware General Health District about what you can do. Your doctor can do a simple blood test to check you or your child for lead exposure and you can have your home checked for lead.
 
Experts  use a new level based on the U.S. population of children ages 1-5 years who are in the top 2.5% of children when tested for lead in their blood (when compared to children who are exposed to more lead than most children). Currently that is 5 micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood. The new, lower value means that more children likely will be identified as having lead exposure allowing parents, doctors, public health officials, and communities to take action earlier to reduce the child’s future exposure to lead. Until recently, children were identified as having a blood lead level of concern if the test result is 10 or more micrograms per deciliter of lead in blood. 
 

What are the Health Effects of Lead?

Many children with elevated blood lead levels show no symptoms. Lead can affect almost every organ and system in your body. Children six years old and younger are most susceptible to the effects of lead.
 

Children

Even low levels of lead in the blood of children can result in:
  • Behavior and learning problems 
  • Lower IQ and Hyperactivity
  • Slowed growth
  • Hearing Problems
  • Anemia
In rare cases, ingestion of lead can cause seizures, coma and even death.

Pregnant Women

Lead can also cross the placental barrier exposing the fetus the lead.  This can result in serious effects to the mother and her developing fetus, including:
  • Reduced growth of the fetus
  • Premature birth

Lead can also be transmitted through breast milk. Read more on lead exposure in pregnancy and lactating women (PDF) (302 pp, 4.2 MB, About PDF).

What can be done to prevent exposure to lead?

It is important to determine the construction year of the house or the dwelling where your child spends a large amount of time (e.g., grandparents or daycare). Information on the year of your home can be found at the Delaware County Auditors’ Office. In housing built before 1978, assume that the paint has lead unless tests show otherwise.