Childhood Lead Poisoning



What can you do to keep your child safe from lead?



What is lead and where is it found?

Lead is a toxin that can be especially harmful to children under the age of 6.
Before the risk to young children was known, it was used in many products.

Before 1978 it was found in paint.  Paint bought today does not have lead in it. 
Older houses often still have old lead paint.  Lead dust from old paint
is the most common way children get lead poisoning.

Why should I be concerned about lead?

Lead can have a very serious and permanent effect on a child’s growth and development.  child near window with lead paint

Lead can cause:

  • Learning disabilities
  • Behavioral problems
  • Hearing damage
  • Language or speech delays
  • Lower intelligence

If you think your child could be at risk for lead poisoning, talk to his or her doctor about testing your child for lead.  Identifying sources of lead in your child’s environment early is the best way to prevent lead poisoning. 

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How do children get poisoned?

Lead dust is the most common way children get lead into their bodies.

  • Lead dust collects on surfaces where children put their hands and play with toys.
    Children often put their hands and toys into their mouths.
  • This makes it very easy for lead dust to get into
    and damage their growing bodies. baby

Lead dust can come from:

  • Opening and closing old, painted windows
  • Peeling or chipping paint
  • Repair projects that disturb old paint
  • Worn painted floors and stairs

Other less common sources of lead:

  • Soil, especially next to old buildings
  • Your job or your family members’ jobs
  • Hobbies (stained glass, fishing sinkers, lead shot, furniture refinishing)
  • Antiques or old, painted furniture or toys
  • Plumbing (lead pipes, lead solder, brass fixtures and valves)
  • Consumer products External site disclaimer (imported toys, chalk, jewelry)
  • Folk remedies (Greta, Arzacon, Pay-loo-ah, Kohl, Kandu) and some herbal remedies (Ayurvedic)

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Is my child at risk for lead poisoning?

Children should have blood lead tests at age 1 & 2 years.  
Children with high lead levels may not look or act differently.

Use the questions below to see if your child may be at risk for lead exposure.

  • Do you live in an older home?
  • Where does your child spends time?  If they frequently visit an older home, they can still be at risk. 
  • Does your child spend time with an adult whose job exposes him or her to lead?
    (Examples: construction, painting, metal cutting or recycling)
  • Is your child very oral?  Children who put “everything” in their mouths are at higher risk.   
  • Have you moved to an older building since your child’s last blood lead test?

If you answered yes or don’t know to any of these questions, ask your doctor for a blood lead test.

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How can I keep my child lead-safe at home?

If you live in an older home:

1). Think about where your child plays:

  • Is there chipping paint nearby?
    • Pick up any paint chips and throw them in the garbage.
    • Wash the floor often where the child plays.
    • If a child plays near a window with old paint, put something like furniture
      in front of the window so that the child can’t touch the old paint.
    • If you live in an apartment, don’t let the children play in the hall, stairs, or porch.
  • Don’t let your children play near dirt next to the home.  Grass and sandboxes are ok.

2). Think about how to keep lead dust out of your child’s mouth.

  • Wash children’s hands before eating and before sleeping.
  • Wash children’s toys and pacifiers.
  • Don’t let children eat food that has fallen on the floor.
  • Feed your children at a clean table or high chair.

3). Wash up dust.

  • Wash the wood around windows and doors.
  • Wash floors once a week.

4). Don’t make matters worse.

  • Never dry scrape or sand old paint.
  • Put off renovations until your children are older. 
  • If you need to make repairs or do maintenance use lead safe methods.

Lead in water is usually not a problem. 
Use cold tap water for drinking and cooking. Run water until it feels cold before using.  
You can test your water for lead.

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What should I do if my child is exposed to lead?

You should get your child tested.
See the "Testing Your Child for Lead" tipsheet. (PDF*)
Reduce your child’s exposure to lead.

Call the lead program to find out how to make your home safer.
(toll free in Maine 866-292-3474)

Consider testing your home. Order a free test for lead dust.

What if my child’s blood lead is high?

Talk to your child's doctor about when follow up blood lead tests should be done
to make sure your child's lead level is going down.

What can I do to help my child?

  • Keep appointments with your child's doctor to have needed follow up blood lead tests.
  • Keep your child away from lead hazards (link back to housing section). 
  • Feed your child healthy meals and snacks. Foods high in iron, calcium, and vitamin C are especially important.
    See Fight Lead Poisoning With A Healthy Diet.External site disclaimer
  • If you think your child may have problems with learning, development or behavior, talk to your doctor. 
    Your child can be evaluated to see if they need help with learning or behavior.
  • Provide a variety of activities, such as Head Start or preschools,
    play groups, or summer camps for your child. Enrich your child
    with age appropriate toys, games, and books.

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Where can I find more information?

Document/Resource Source Size Type

Hire RRP Certified Contractors to Renovate, Repair or Paint Your Home

Maine Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Maine CDC, DHHS 172KB PDF*
Testing Your Child For Lead Maine Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Maine CDC, DHHS 99k PDF*
Don’t take lead home from your job! Maine Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Maine CDC, DHHS 150k PDF*
Keeping your child away from lead Maine Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, Maine CDC, DHHS 532 KB PDF*
Lead Recalls External site disclaimer U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission N/A Web
Maine Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) Lead Hazard Prevention External site disclaimer Maine Department of Environmental Protection N/A Web
Lead Paint Safety: A Field Guide for Painting, Home Maintenance, & Renovation Work External site disclaimer U.S. Housing and Urban Development 1.3 MB PDF*
Fight Lead Poisoning With A Healthy Diet External site disclaimer U.S. Environmental Protection Agency 1.3 MB PDF*
Don't Spread Lead - English NE Lead Coord Committee 800 kb PDF*

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