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Childhood Lead Poisoning Exposure and Risk

In the United States, the major source of lead exposure among children is lead-based paint and lead-contaminated dust found in older buildings. Lead-based paints were banned for use in housing in 1978. Houses and other buildings built before 1978, especially those built before 1950, may contain lead-based paint. If you live in or regularly visit homes built before 1978, your child may be at risk for lead poisoning. This includes grandparents’ or other family members’ homes and in-home daycares.

Deteriorating paint (chipping, flaking, and peeling) and paint disturbed during home remodeling contribute to lead dust, contaminate bare soil around the home, and makes paint chips and dust-containing lead accessible to children. Young children who live in pre-1950 homes become lead-poisoned when they put paint chips or exterior soil in their mouths or when they get house dust and soil on their hands and put their hands in their mouths.

Lead from sources other than housing may also present a hazard to children. Other sources of lead poisoning include:

  • folk medicines and remedies (azarcon and greta, which are used for upset stomach or indigestion; pay-loo-ah, which is used for rash or fever);
  • parental hobbies or work that include the use of lead (making stained-glass windows, hunting, fishing, target shooting, recycling or making automobile batteries, painting, and radiator repair);
  • parental hobbies and work that use lead are a source of exposure to children if lead dust is on the parent’s clothing and footwear.
  • drinking water (lead pipes, solder, brass fixtures, and valves can all leach lead);

Children under the age of 6 years are at risk for lead poisoning because they tend to put their hands or other objects into their mouths. Any child who lives in or frequently visits houses and buildings built before 1978, especially houses and buildings built before 1950 with deteriorating or disturbed paint, is at risk for lead poisoning. Children from all social and economic levels can be affected by lead poisoning, but children whose families are low income and who are of minority race and ethnicity. In many communities, these are the families that live in pre-1950 housing that contain lead-based paint hazards.

Data and information for this site are still being developed and added.  We welcome your comments and feedback.

This effort is supported by funding from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Environmental Public Health Tracking Program, Cooperative Agreement Number 5U38EH000619-02. The contents of this Website are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.