Lead Poisoning FAQ

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    What is lead?

    Lead is a toxic metal that is has been used in products for centuries. Lead is still found all across Nebraska. Children and adults can get too much lead in their body if they are exposed to lead in their environment. When it enters the body, lead can build up and cause damage. Lead exposure can be detected by a blood test from a doctor.

    How does lead harm the body?

    In children, lead can cause learning, behavior and health problems. No amount of lead is safe. Even low levels of lead in blood have been shown to affect IQ, ability to pay attention, and academic achievement.

    In adults, lead can cause high blood pressure, heart disease, kidney damage, and reduced fertility. In pregnant women, lead can increase the risk for premature and low-birth weight newborns.

    Most people with lead poisoning or high blood lead levels do not have symptoms.

    How are children and adults exposed to lead?

    Children are exposed to lead by swallowing or breathing in small amounts of lead. Lead-based paint is the most common source of lead exposure in children. Lead-based paint is found in many homes built before 1978. When lead paint breaks down over time, it creates lead dust that can contaminate the home and can get on children's hands, toys, bottles, and pacifiers.

    Lead can be found in sources other than lead paint and dust inside a house. These other sources of lead include soil around a house, a parent's occupation, toys, and spices and medicines from other countries.   

    In adults, lead exposure most commonly occurs at a person's work or hobby.

    • See Sources of Lead for more detailed information on where lead is found.

    Who is at risk for lead exposure?

    Children under the age of 6 years old

    Young children are at risk because their bodies are rapidly developing and because they tend to put their hands or other objects, which may be contaminated with lead dust, into their mouths.

    Children living in or spending time in homes built before 1978

    Lead-based paint was used in homes until it was banned in 1978. The older your home is, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint.

    People living in homes built before 1978 undergoing renovation or remodeling

    Renovation work in homes with lead paint can create hazardous lead dust. If renovation or lead removal work is not done properly, family members can be exposed to lead. Learn more about lead safe renovation.

    Pregnant or nursing women

    Lead can harm to her unborn baby or child.

    Families using products known to contain lead

    Some spices, cultural products, and medicines have been found to contain lead. Learn more about other Sources of Lead.

    Children with parents who are exposed to lead at work

    Parents can take lead home with them on their clothes and shoes and create lead hazards in the home.

    Adults exposed to lead form their work or hobby

    Adults who work around lead are at risk for exposure. High risk occupations where lead exposure can occur include construction, ammunition manufacturing, battery manufacturing, foundries, firing ranges, and metal recycling.

    Adults who have certain hobbies or other non-work activities are also at risk. Bullet making, stained glass work, ceramic and jewelry making, home remodeling are all activities that can cause lead exposure. Learn more about adult lead exposures.

    How can I tell if my child has too much lead in their body?

    Most children with too much lead in their bodies do not seem sick. A doctor can perform a simple blood test to determine how much lead is present in the blood. If a blood lead test shows elevated levels of lead, more testing will be done to ensure the blood lead level goes down. To get your child tested for lead, ask your child's doctor about blood lead testing.

    Adults who are exposed to lead through their work or hobbies should also be tested regularly.

    Which children should tested or screened for lead?

    Parents concern about lead exposure should talk to their child's doctor to child tested for lead, ask your child's doctor about blood lead testing. Generally, your child should get a lead screening test at age 1 and 2 if:

    • Your child lives in a high risk zip code, or
    • Your child is enrolled in Medicaid or WIC, or
    • Your child is at risk based on answering "yes" to at least one of the risk questions

    How can I protect my child from lead?

    Lead Prevention Tips 

    To learn how parents can prevent lead poisoning and exposures, see Prevention Information for Parents.

    The best way to protect children is to prevent lead exposure before they are harmed. The most important step is stopping children from coming into contact with lead. There are many ways parents can reduce a child's exposure to lead:

    • Have your child visit a doctor ask about blood lead testing
    • Find lead in the child's environment
    • Keep children away from lead paint and lead dust
    • Renovate safely
    • Clean and maintain your home
    • Make sure your child has a healthy diet