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Safety & Prevention

Lead Exposure: Steps to Protect Your Family

The most important step parents, doctors, and others can take is to prevent lead exposure before it occurs.

9 steps to keep your home lead safe

  • 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. See the EPA's Renovation, Repair, and Painting rule Web page for more information.

  • 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. Some foods, especially baby and toddler foods, are known to have detectable levels of lead in them. Reducing your child's exposure to lead is key. Give your child a well-balanced diet that includes a variety of foods that are high in calcium and iron and follow the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations on fruit juice. A good diet can help your child absorb less lead.

Should my child be tested for lead?

Pediatricians should screen all children for risk factors that may result in lead exposures by asking about the age of the home, parental occupations and hobbies, use of ethnic foods and spices, and hand to mouth activity. The only way to know for sure if your child has been exposed to lead is with a blood test. Lead 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.

Childhood Lead Exposure - AAP Infographic

Talk with your pediatrician

If you have questions about lead exposure, talk with your pediatrician. Your regional Pediatric Environmental Health Specialty Unit (PEHSU) have staff who can also talk with parents about concerns over environmental toxins.

More information

Last Updated
Lead is a Poison: What You Need to Know (Copyright © 2016 American Academy of Pediatrics)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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