U.S. Department of Health and Human Services


Protect Your Family from Lead Poisoning

toddlers playing with toys

Content last updated on:
February 21, 2014

The Basics

Take steps to protect your family from lead poisoning. Lead poisoning is caused by swallowing or breathing in lead. In the United States, most lead poisoning is caused by paint in homes built before 1978.

Who is at risk for lead poisoning?
Children under age 6 and pregnant women are most at risk.

  • When children are young, their bodies are still growing and are more sensitive to the harmful effects of lead.
  • If a pregnant woman has too much lead in her body, it can increase her risk for miscarriage (losing the baby). Lead can also pass from the mother to her baby.

There are no signs or symptoms of lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can lead to learning and behavior problems. Some of the effects of lead poisoning may never go away.

How do kids get lead poisoning?
Paint in homes built before 1978 often has lead in it. When old paint cracks and chips, it creates lead dust. Children get lead poisoning from breathing in or swallowing dust on their hands and toys.

Lead can also be found in the soil around your home, drinking water, and products with old paint, like toys, furniture, and jewelry.

If your home was built before 1978, use this Home Danger Zone Finder to see which spots in your home could contain lead.

Keep your family safe from lead.
Take these steps to keep your family safe:

  • Keep kids and pregnant women away from chipping or peeling lead paint.
  • Wash your child’s hands and toys often.
  • If you live in an older home, have your home tested for lead paint.
  • Ask a doctor to test your child for lead.

To learn more about preventing lead poisoning:

Take Action!

Take Action!

You can help protect your family from lead poisoning by taking these simple steps.

Keep children away from lead dust.
If you live in an older home (built before 1978), treat all paint as if it has lead in it. Follow these tips to keep kids from breathing in or swallowing lead:

  • Keep children away from rooms with chipping or peeling paint.
  • Cover peeling or chipping paint with duct tape or contact paper.
  • Use a wet paper towel or mop to clean up dust regularly, especially around windows and floors.

Renovate safely.
If you are doing any home remodeling or repairs, be sure to follow lead-safe work practices. Keep pregnant women and children away from the work area.

Wash your child’s hands and toys.
Lead dust from chipping and peeling paint can get on children’s toys and hands. Wash toys and hands often, especially before eating and sleeping.

Play this podcast on Happy Handwashing for your child.

Test your home for lead.
If you live in a home built before 1978, have your home inspected (tested) for lead paint by a licensed lead inspector .Also ask the inspector about testing your soil and water.

For more information, contact your state’s Healthy Homes program. The Healthy Homes program may be able to inspect your home for lead at no cost to you.

What if I rent my home?
Ask your landlord to have your home tested for lead. Your local health department can give you information about your landlord’s responsibilities.

Test your child for lead.
There are no signs or symptoms of lead poisoning. A lead test is the only way to know for sure if your child has lead poisoning.

A lead test measures the amount of lead in your child’s blood. If you are worried about lead poisoning, ask your child’s doctor or nurse to test your child for lead.

If your child has a high lead level, find out 5 things you can do to help lower it [PDF – 190 KB].

What about cost?
Medicaid covers lead screening for children at ages 12 and 24 months.

For families with private insurance, lead screening for children at high risk of exposure to lead is covered under the Affordable Care Act, the health care reform law passed in 2010.

Check with your insurance provider to find out what’s included in your plan. For information about other services for children that are covered by the Affordable Care Act, visit HealthCare.gov.

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