What is Lead Poisoning?
Lead is a highly toxic metal that may cause a range of health problems, especially in young children. When lead is absorbed into the body, it can cause damage to the brain and other vital organs, like the kidneys, nerves and blood.
Both inside and outside the home, deteriorated lead-paint mixes with household dust and soil and becomes tracked in. Children may become lead poisoned by:
- Putting their hands or other lead-contaminated objects into their mouths,
- Eating paint chips found in homes with peeling or flaking lead-based paint, or
- Playing in lead-contaminated soil
Take a moment to look at the brochure "Protect Your Family from Lead in Your Home" for additional information (available in English, Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Somali and Arabic).
Lead and Your Health
Most of the lead found in homes comes from lead-based paint, which was used in homes built before 1978. When old paint cracks and chips, it creates lead dust. Often, the dust is so small you can’t even see it. Lead poisoning is most often caused by swallowing or breathing in lead dust by accident.
Lead can also be found in other places in your home. Sometimes lead can be found in water that travels through lead pipes or in the soil around your home.
Lead poisoning in children can cause:
- Damage to the brain and nervous system
- Learning and behavior problems
- Slow growth and development
- Hearing and speech problems
Lead poisoning in adults can cause:
- Reproductive problems (in both men and women)
- High blood pressure (hypertension)
- Brain or nerve damage
- Memory and concentration problems
- Muscle and joint pain
- Some of the effects of lead poisoning may never go away. Most people with lead poisoning don’t have noticeable signs or symptoms. A doctor can test you for lead by testing your blood.
- The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website has links to the state health departments’ childhood lead poisoning prevention programs via the CDC's State Programs page.
- The National Association of County and City Health Officials website has a Local Health Departments directory page with links to local health departments.
Who gets lead poisoning?
- Children get lead poisoning from breathing in lead dust or from swallowing lead dust on their hands and toys. Children under 6 years old are most at risk for lead poisoning.
- Pregnant and breastfeeding women can pass lead to their babies.
- Adults can get lead poisoning if they are renovating or doing work on old houses with lead-based paint, if they work in a factory that uses lead in its products, or if they have hobbies that use products with lead in them (like hunting, stained glass-making, or pottery).
- Recent immigrants and refugees are more likely to live in homes built before 1978. They also may have some cultural practices that put them in contact with lead. Also, they often have less access to foods rich in iron and calcium, which makes them more likely to get lead poisoning.
Preventing lead poisoning is especially important for young children. Their bodies and brains are still growing and developing; so they are more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead.
The CDC.gov/lead page has a link to the Information for Parents page. On that page is a section on how to Get Treatment if You Think Your Child Has Been in Contact with Lead. The first step is to “contact your child's health care provider,” who can help parents decide about blood lead testing and, if necessary, treatment.
The CDC’s Information for Parents page also has fact sheets and other Additional Resources for Parents.
Lead and Your Home
Do you live in a Pre 1978 home or apartment? There are resources available to find out if there are lead hazards in your home and what you can do to protect your family during remediation of lead hazards.
The federal lead disclosure law, which covers renting and buying a pre-1978 home, requires the landlord or seller to tell about known lead paint and lead paint hazards – which includes high levels of lead in dust or soil, and to provide a lead warning statement, a HUD-EPA information pamphlet, and a lead disclosure form. The law allows a tenant or buyer to withdraw from the lease if the lead conditions are not felt not to be satisfactory.
If a tenant (or buyer) of a pre-1978 home did not receive lead disclosure, HUD’s Lead Regulations hotline can be contacted to make a report – 202-402-7698, or firstname.lastname@example.org
The best way is to have a lead risk assessment done; this has a certified lead risk assessor inspect and test the home for lead-based paint hazards in the paint, dust, and soil, and provide a report on the results. EPA’s webpage on Evaluating and eliminating lead based paint hazards has links for finding certified lead risk assessment firms in each state.
EPA’s webpage on Evaluating and eliminating lead based paint hazards has links for finding certified lead risk assessment firms in each state. The risk assessor will look for deteriorated paint – which the risk assessor will test to see if it is lead-based paint – and sample floor dust, window dust, and bare soil, and then send the samples to a lead laboratory to see if the levels are high. The risk assessor will also provide a report on the inspection and lab results, and make recommendations on how to control any lead hazards identified.
Should you have your home tested for Lead? https://www.epa.gov/sites/production/files/documents/parent_checklist3.pdf
Landlords have a general duty to provide safe housing, but most local housing and building codes don’t have specific provisions regarding lead safety. The tenant should check with the local building or housing department to see what remedies may be available.
If the home was built before 1978 and the landlord did not provide a completely filled-out lead disclosure form, or did not disclose lead conditions he/she knew about in the form, there could be a violation of the federal lead disclosure law, so HUD’s Lead Regulations hotline should be contacted to make a report – 202-402-7698, or email@example.com.
Are you renting a home built before 1978? Your landlord needs to share what they know about lead in your building. http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/healthy_homes/enforcement/disclosure
What resources are there for homeowners who are renovating?
HUD has an Renovation, Repair and Painting (RRP) page to guide people, and also have a link to EPA's RRP website, which has more detail and publications, and links to training courses. EPA certifies contractors and renovators who have met certain qualifications and training to conduct RRP work in pre-1978 homes; EPA also authorizes some states to certify renovation firms and renovators. The EPA has a webpage on helping people Locate Certified Renovation and Lead Dust Sampling Technician Firms in each state.
Renovating? Hire only EPA- or state-approved Lead-Safe Certified renovators: http://bit.ly/29SRcGA.
Having work done on your place? Childproof your home improvements: http://bit.ly/2aLmthy