Millions of U.S. children are at risk for lead poisoning

Lullaby 01/09/2013

painted hands on walls

Did you know that just a few, small specks of lead dust are enough to poison a child and cause permanent harm? Less than one-tenth of one gram of lead dust is enough to contaminate a 2,000 square foot home and poison a child. And, even before lead levels qualify as poisonous, they can be deleteriously impacting your child’s health -- irreversibly.

There is no “safe” level of lead and tiny exposures can cause everything from nervous system and kidney damage to learning disabilities and decreased muscle and bone growth. High levels can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and, in some cases, death. And, according to a recent article in Mother Jones magazine by Kevin Drum,  “new research finds [lead] is the hidden villain behind violent crime, lower IQs, and even the ADHD epidemic.”

Yet, HUD’s National Survey of lead and Allergens in Housing estimates that 38 million homes (40% of all housing units) in the United States contain lead-based paint.  And, according to the Lead-Free Kids Campaign, an estimated one million U.S. children are affected by lead poisoning despite the fact that it is considered the most preventable environmentally-caused disease. 100% preventable, in fact.

Is your child at risk for lead poisoning?

Lead can be found almost everywhere, including dirt, dust, new toys, and old house paint. Let’s focus on lead paint because the dust created from it is the most common way for children and pregnant women to be exposed to lead. Here’s where it’s found:

  • House paint before 1978.
  • Toys and furniture painted before 1976.
  • Painted toys and decorations made outside the U.S.

How can you protect your child?

First of all, the US Environmental Protection Agency recommends having your home tested (especially if your home has paint in poor condition and was built before 1978) and fixing any hazards you may have. There are state and federal programs in place to ensure that testing is done safely, reliably, and effectively.  Call 1-800-424-LEAD (5323) for a list of contacts in your area. (Home test kits for lead are available, but may not always be accurate.)

Paint over problem areas with a zero-VOC*, non-toxic** paint (especially in your baby’s nursery) to contain lead dust. Still, that’s not a permanent solution for areas that receive constant friction like door jambs and windows. Seek professional help for remediating trouble zones.

*Conforms to CDPH 01350 (VOC emissions test taken at 11, 12, & 14 days for classroom and office use). Learn more about VOCs and our commitment to healthier paints here. **Conforms to ASTMD-4236, specifically concerning oral toxicity, skin irritation and respiratory effects.

Lead Free Kids; a joint effort of the Ad Council, the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Coalition to End Childhood Lead Poisoning; shares these additional  recommendations to help prevent lead poisoning:

  • Get Your Child Tested: If you have a child under age 6 and live in a home built before 1978, ask your child’s pediatrician for a lead test. A simple blood test can determine whether your child has been exposed and your doctor can refer you to additional resources. If you’re pregnant, you should also be tested.
  • Windows and Doors: Toxic dust from lead-based paint can be created and build up where painted surfaces rub together, like when you open and close windows and doors, so check your doors and windows inside and out. Wipe away any dust or paint chips with wet paper towels, throw them away immediately, and wash your hands thoroughly.
  • Baseboards and Walls: Check baseboards and walls for peeling, cracking or chipped paint. Be careful of generating dust when hammering, sanding, or doing other work on walls that may have lead-based paint.

For more information about lead, lead poisoning prevention, and safe renovation, visit the EPA's website. And, consider Lullaby Paints for nursery and home renovations.

photo credit: Nina Matthews Photography via photopin cc


The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or recommendations. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding the issues raised here.