The Dangers of Lead Poisoning

Woman helping boy wash hands in kitchen sink.Lead is a metal. It was once used in things like paint, china, and water pipes. Too much lead can make you, your children, and even your pets sick. Breathing, touching, or eating paint or dust containing lead is the most likely way of being exposed. Dust gets on the hands. It can then enter the mouth. Children may also chew on lead paint because it can taste sweet.

Lead hurts kids

  • Sometimes you may not notice any signs of lead poisoning in children.

  • Behavior, learning, and sleep problems may be caused by lead.

  • >Other signs of lead poisoning include clumsiness, weakness, headaches, and hearing problems. It can also cause slow growth, stomach problems, seizures, and coma.

Lead hurts adults

  • It can cause problems with blood pressure and muscles. It can hurt your kidneys, nerves, and stomach.

  • It can make you unable to have children. This is true for both men and women. Lead can also cause problems during pregnancy.

  • Lead can hurt memory and concentration.

Reduce lead’s dangers

  • Have your home's water tested for lead. If it is found to be high in lead content, follow instructions provided by the CDC. These include using only cold water to drink or cook, and to let the cold water run for at least 2 minutes before using water for drinking or cooking.

  • If your home was built before 1978, you should assume it contains lead paint unless you have proof to the contrary. In this case, the tips below can reduce your and your children's exposure to lead. 

  • Keep house surfaces clean. Wash floors, window wells, frames, and sills, and play areas weekly.

  • Wash toys often. Don’t let your children lick or chew painted surfaces. Don’t let your children eat snow.

  • Wash children’s hands before they eat. Also wash them before they take a nap and go to sleep at night.

  • Feed your children healthy meals. These include meals high in calcium and iron. Children who have a healthy diet don’t take in as much lead.

  • If you notice paint chips, clean them up right away.

  • Try to avoid being on-site through major remodeling projects on your home unless the area under construction is well sealed off from your living and children's play areas. 

  • Check sleeping areas for chipped paint, or signs of chewed-on paint.

  • Remove vinyl mini blinds if made outside the U.S. before 1997.

  • Don’t remove leaded paint. Paint or wallpaper over it. Or ask your local health or safety department for a list of people who can safely remove it.

  • Be aware of toy recalls due to lead paint. Sign up for recall alerts at the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission website: