Should my child be screened for lead?
The only way to know for sure if your child has been exposed to lead is with a blood test. Lead screening tests sometimes take blood from the finger, but it is better and more accurate to take the blood from a vein in the arm. The test measures the amount of lead in the blood. If you think that your child has been exposed to lead, talk with your pediatrician about getting a blood test to check for lead.
Other Things You Can Do
- Test your home for lead. If your home was built before 1978, talk with your local health department about getting your home tested for lead. If you don't know how old your home is, assume there is lead. In the United States, lead is in paint in 87% of homes built before 1940, 69% of homes built from 1940–1959, and 24% of homes built from 1960–1977. Homes in the Northeast and Midwest are most likely to have lead in paint. Ask the landlord about lead before you sign a lease. Before you buy a home, have it inspected for lead.
- Before any work is done on your home, learn about safe ways to make repairs. When repairs are being done, seal off the area until the job is done and keep your child away until everything is cleaned up. Be sure to use a certified contractor. Removing lead paint on your own can often make the condition worse. If work is not done the safe way, you and your child can be harmed by increased exposure to lead in dust.
- Keep your children away from old windows, old porches, and areas with chipping or peeling paint. If it is in your home, cover it with duct tape or contact paper until it can be completely removed. If you rent your home, let your landlord know about any peeling or chipping paint. Landlords are legally required to repair lead problems found on their property.
- Do not allow your child to play in the dirt next to your old home. Plant grass over bare soil or use mulch or wood chips.
- Clean your home regularly. Wipe down floors and other level surfaces with a damp mop or sponge. Taking shoes off at the door can help reduce tracking in dirt.
- Teach your children to wash their hands, especially before eating. Wash pacifiers and toys regularly.
- Keep clean. If your work or hobbies involve lead, change your clothes and shoes and shower when finished. Keep your clothes at work or wash your work clothes as soon as possible.
- Use cold flushed tap water for mixing formula, drinking, or cooking. If you are in an older home, run the water for several minutes before using it in the morning and start with cold water for drinking or cooking.
- Eat healthy. Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes breakfast and food high in calcium and iron. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead.